It took, what, one batter for CC Sabathia’s fastball velocity to become an issue again?
“My fastball is what it is,” Sabathia said. “If it gets better, it will. If it’s not, it won’t. I can pitch. I’m fine. As long as I’m healthy I’ll be good.”
YES Network had Sabathia’s fastball at 88 mph in his spring debut this afternoon. He was still plenty effective — two scoreless innings, two hits, no walks, one strikeout — but Sabathia is coming off the worst season of his career, which is also the season when his average fastball velocity dipped to 91.3 mph according to Fangraphs. Sabathia has pointed to various factors other than velocity: He was trying to protect his surgically repaired elbow early in the season, got into bad habits and had trouble controlling a fastball that tended to cut when he didn’t want it to.
“I threw a lot of fastballs last year in the dirt,” Sabathia said. “It was just about getting my release point back and getting a good feel. I was able to do that with a football, throwing a football, and then carry that over to the baseball this year in the offseason throwing program, so I feel good. … (Today) the ball stayed true. I was behind everything, and my arm feels great.”
Sabathia left no doubt that he doesn’t want to have daily velocity discussions. It’s hard to compare this spring against last spring because Sabathia didn’t get into a spring training game until March 15 last year. It seems safe to assume his velocity will increase at least a little bit as he gains arm strength, but the days of regularly throwing 94 mph are probably gone. So be it, the Yankees say.
“That was something people wanted to make a ton about last year, and I’m not going to make much of it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “To me, if he’s downhill and locating, I don’t care what his velocity is. He’s going to get people out.”
· Alfonso Soriano has been scratched from tomorrow’s game in Dunedin. Apparently he saw the doctor again because he’s still not feeling quite right after dealing with a flu bug earlier this spring. Girardi said it will be “a few more days” before Soriano is in a game. “We don’t feel like he’s quite at full strength, and we don’t want to run him out there,” Girardi said.
· The Yankees have their spring rotation mapped out, but Girardi hasn’t revealed anything beyond Wednesday. He said he’ll announce soon — possibly tomorrow — when Masahiro Tanaka will make his first start and when Michael Pineda will get into a real game. Seems safe to assume those things will happen late next week.
· Why give Brian McCann a DH day and let him play two in a row? “It’s just kind of moving him around so he sees other people,” Girardi said. “Maybe he doesn’t have to make every road trip.” Also worth noting that by playing today, McCann will skip catching Vidal Nuno and probably line up to catch Ivan Nova on Monday. Nova’s a big league lock. Nuno’s kind of a fringy possibility.
· Derek Jeter actually got some chances in the field today. He caught a line drive and made a charging play in front of second base, tagging the lead runner and then throwing to first base for a double play. “I thought that was a big play, I did,” Girardi said. “It shows me that his mobility is there. He’s not favoring anything, not wincing. He just moved (to do) what he had to do.”
· Easily overshadowed by Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda was actually the best of the trio today. He went two scoreless innings with one hit and two strikeouts. He was so efficient — only 17 pitches — that the Yankees had him throw more in the bullpen after the game. “From the hitters’ reactions, I could tell that my two-seamer, the ball was moving well,” Kuroda said.
· Yangervis Solarte didn’t homer or anything today (he did take a walk, though). Instead, Dean Anna was the utility type who managed to stand out with a nice play at shortstop. I’ve been told he’s more of a second baseman, but that was a nifty play. Anna also singled, stole a base and scored a run (and made a fielding error).
· Game notes: Adonis Garcia had the biggest hit with a two-out, two-run single in the seventh. Brian McCann had the hardest hit with his first-inning double. McCann also walked twice. … Japanese reporters said that three different stations were live broadcasting today’s game in Japan. It was because of Tanaka, but I’m sure Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki were a solid draw. Ichiro did his part with an RBI single. … Another solid relief appearance by Dellin Betances, who walked one but allowed no hits through an inning and two thirds. Cesar Cabral finished off the game with the final four outs, including two strikeouts.
· Final word goes to Cervelli talking about Tanaka’s calm demeanor: “He was good, like he pitched (in the Majors) last year or three years ago. It’s cool, man. He’s been doing really good in the clubhouse with us, and this is the good thing about the guys here, they make everybody feel as a team and a family.”
Associated Press photos