CC Sabathia walked off the field to a standing ovation tonight. He struck out his final batter on a high fastball, then disappeared into a sea of dugout high fives. Seven scoreless innings. Seven strikeouts. A what-do-you-think-of-me-now moment if he wanted it to be.
“If I pitch like this April 1, then I’ll be happy,” Sabathia said. “… It’s spring training. I do feel like I have a lot to prove, but it kind of is what it is. I wasn’t right last year. I wasn’t the same guy. I feel confident, I feel strong. Hopefully I can carry this into the season.”
This start came after Sabathia’s five no-hit innings in Panama. According to the TV radar gun, Sabathia’s fastball sat around 88-91 mph, but there is no radar reading displayed at Steinbrenner Field, and Sabathia said he never asked how hard he was throwing. He was more concerned with the way he was mixing pitches. Some sliders for strikes. Some cutters when the situation called for it. And quite a few changeups, a return to the pitch that abandoned him at times last year. Sabathia, in turn, occasionally abandoned the pitch.
“Sometimes you get certain lineups, and you get comfortable with another pitch,” Joe Girardi said. “He was having a hard time with it — it was cutting at times – and he didn’t have the feel for it last year. I think that’s probably why he got away from it. There were discussions about it, sure.”
Sabathia said it was since-departed video coordinator Charlie Wonsowicz who was most on his case last year about needing to throw more changeups.
“I just kind of got slider happy last year,” Sabathia said. “I wanted to use it backdoor in a lot of situations. When I wanted to use it backdoor I could have been using changeups. Just a different look. That’s something I need to be conscious of throughout the year.”
After seven innings and 89 pitches, Sabathia said he still felt strong postgame. This was a solid test of the stamina that gave him some trouble last year, and Sabathia said he came through feeling encouraged. He’ll next pitch on Thursday, a lighter start that will serve as his final tuneup before Opening Day. For now, he has a 1.59 ERA, 16 strikeouts and only three walks in a spring training that’s been far more encouraging than anything the Yankees saw last season.
“I feel great,” Sabathia said. “I don’t think I had an outing like the last two in spring training in a couple of years. So like I said, my arm is there. It’s catching up. The delivery is there. This is the second year with this new frame I got, so I’m able to (get) my mechanics, I’m able to repeat easily, so I feel good.”
· In case you missed it in the game post, Brendan Ryan’s MRI revealed a pinched nerve in his back. Ryan said it could have been worse, but he was clearly frustrated by the diagnosis, which seems to leave little chance of him breaking camp with the team. He’s taking some medication now and said he’ll likely get a cortisone shot at some point. “I certainly wouldn’t do myself any good by going out there and doing anything,” Ryan said. “I wouldn’t be able to do a whole lot right now. I feel it a little bit when I breathe. It’s just in a spasm spot right now.”
· Assuming Ryan is able to play again this spring, he will play in minor league games so that the Yankees can backdate his disabled list stint. The Yankees should be able to DL Ryan in such a way that he only misses a week or so of the regular season (assuming he’s healthy at that point). He doesn’t have to begin his 15-day stint on Opening Day. Girardi acknowledged that even if Ryan’s able to get in some games, Opening Day would still be unlikely.
· Cashman said he doesn’t expect to go out of the organization to find a utility replacement. “If (Ryan) can’t go, we have somebody here who will be able to do that,” Cashman said.
· Cashman seemed less concerned about keeping Jacoby Ellsbury out of major-league games. He said he’s talked about it a little bit but hasn’t come to a decision. Cashman fully expects Ellsbury to be ready for Opening Day. “The MRI was clean, so they’ll finish him off with the batting practice and the running and all that stuff,” Cashman said. “I’m not worried about it. I can’t tell you (when he’ll play again). Next few days, I guess, but we’ll see.”
· Ellsbury ran arcs on the outfield grass today. Girardi said he’s shooting for Tuesday as Ellsbury’s return to game action. Girardi believes there’s time for Ellsbury to play four days before camp ends, and one of those days could come at the minor league complex so that Ellsbury can get a bunch of at-bats.
· Derek Jeter said he’s fine after fouling two balls off his left foot. One hit his ankle, the other hit the top of his foot. “I do it often,” Jeter said. “It sucks, but it’s (just) a foul ball.”
· Jeter went 0-for-3 and is batting just .122 this spring. “I feel all right,” he said. “In spring training, the thing is you want to have good at-bats and you want to hit the ball hard. I did a couple of times today. If it was the regular season, then I’d rather have 2 broken-bat hits. At this point in the spring you just want to hit the ball hard. I think I’m progressing how I should be.”
· As if anyone doubted it, Girardi officially named Sabathia his Opening Day starter. Sabathia will pitch Thursday on an extra day of rest — it will be a shorter start — and then he’ll be lined up for April 1.
· Box score notes: The Yankees got a 4-0 win with Brian McCann hitting a double and throwing out two runners trying to steal second base. … Dean Anna had a single to push his batting average up to .258. He said he’s felt better at the plate lately. Was dealing with a slight shoulder issue earlier. … The Yankees had just six hits. Anna was the only player to have one off the bench. The others belonged to McCann, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Brian Roberts. Brett Gardner stole a base. … Infield defense is going to matter if Sabathia’s going to keep getting ground balls like this. Kelly Johnson made one nice play to turn two, but Johnson and Roberts also had an error apiece. … Hitless ninth inning for Dave Robertson. Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton split the eighth inning without a base runner.
· Before today’s game, first baseman Greg Bird and right-handed pitcher Shane Greene were presented with the Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year for 2013.
· Final word goes to Cashman: “We’ve had a good camp, which is thankful, but (the infield) is still an area that we’ll continue to focus on and keep our eyes on. Obviously Ryan’s current condition doesn’t help, but I’m really pleased with what we’ve seen from a lot of the other guys. We’ll have someone we can feel comfortable that we can pick from, and we’ll always keep our eyes open to what’s outside the organization infield wise as well as pitching wise.”
Associated Press photos