Yankees Post Game Notebook: CC Sabathia happy with first spring start
"It was good to get out there and face some hitters; my changeup was good, and my fastball command needs to be a little better, but it was pretty good for my first time out," Sabathia said after the game. "I started back-dooring the cutter, they were laying off the back foot, so I started back-dooring it and got some swings."
Sabathia was brought along a little slower this spring as he recovered from October elbow surgery, but he pitched a handful of simulated games and was actually held back from starting last Sunday because the Yankees were facing a division rival. The ace said that he was naturally "nervous" for his first Grapefruit League appearance, but after a successful outing he's looking forward to finishing the spring strong.
"I didn't have any problems and felt good, so I'll just keep building in the bullpen, make sure my fastball command gets better, and we'll go from there," he said. "My velocity (Friday) was about right for me in the spring, so that's good; we've got a little work to do, but it's Spring Training."
Catcher Francisco Cervelli praised Sabathia's performance Friday, but also reiterated the lefty's insistence on working on location.
"For the first time out, he was amazing; this early, he's always like that trying to work things out. I thought his command was pretty good the last two innings, and his slider was amazing the whole game," Cervelli said, "but the key for him is fastball location, being able to throw it in on the hands, because his ball is so heavy."
Cervelli himself had a fine game as well, hitting his first home run of the spring. Cervelli said that he wasn't necessarily focused on having offensive days like Friday - saying he won't forget it but knows his defense is the most important job - but Girardi said he has been impressed with all facets of Cervelli's game this year so far.
"I think he can do the job offensively, and he's absolutely better defensively (than he was this time last year)," Girardi said, "and I think playing every day last year got him back to who he was."
The skipper also said he was impressed with how Cervelli handled his option to Triple-A when the Yankees acquired Chris Stewart late last spring, especially in how he used his everyday role in Scranton as motivation to make it an everyday role in the Bronx in 2013.
"That's your option as a player; sometimes when you get sent down and you've been here, it's hard to swallow, but then the ball's in your court - are you going to spend your time being upset or your time proving you belong?" Girardi posited. "I went through that and know how hard it is, but he worked really hard and he's impressed me."
Other notes out of Friday's win:
-Girardi said that Slade Heathcott is dealing with a mild case of patella tendinitis, which is why he hasn't played over the last couple days. Also, Chris Stewart was held out Friday because he was still a little sore after taking a couple foul tips this week, so with Bobby Wilson set to take an at-bat as the DH, Girardi had Francisco Arcia up from Minor League camp to backup Cervelli on Friday because, as he joked, "I looked at my lineup card and I had run out of players."
-Derek Jeter will play in Saturday's home game, and while Girardi didn't specify if The Captain would play shortstop or DH, he did joke that "I'm sure (Derek) won't tell me he feels great for the second one." Jeter himself said after Friday's game that he had "nothing to report," saying his ankle felt good, he's back in routine, and will play Saturday and go from there.
-Girardi said he has been impressed with Juan Rivera at both first base and in the outfield, saying "he's made all the plays, and that's all you can ask."
-The skipper will try to be an iron man on a split-squad Saturday, saying he plans to leave Tampa after the home game against the Phillies and drive to Lake Buena Vista to manage the team that will face the Braves. Only 15 players from Major League camp were on the travel roster as of Friday afternoon, with 10 players from Minor League camp - including catcher Austin Romine - set to come up for the day to round out the departing split squad.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES