CC Sabathia Flashes Signs of Old Self in First Start


It was only two innings and 31 pitches long, but CC Sabathia looked like his vintage self last night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yes, he gave up two runs on hard hit balls, but to see him hit 91 MPH consistently in his first spring start, after averaging 89 MPH on his fastball last season was definitely encouraging. Those extra two MPH will be vital in the later stages of his career, but it remains to be seen if he can keep that same velocity after throwing 100 pitches or so.

Aside from his fastball, his changeup and slider were left up and flat in the zone on a few occasions, which ended up hurting him in the second inning. Everyone has been focused on his fastball velocity, but moving forward, those secondary pitches are going to be just as important to his success in 2015 and beyond.

“I want my changeup to be a little bit better than it was tonight. My cutter was there, but I just need to work on my changeup cause I think thats gonna be a big pitch for me.” Sabathia said.

The highlight of his performance was the 1-2-3 first inning he threw against three tough batters: Jose Reyes, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Bautista. Reyes was able to foul off a couple pitches until grounding out on the seventh pitch – a changeup that was up and away in the zone.

After a couple of fastballs to Donaldson that brought the count to 1-1, Sabathia threw a changeup right down the heart of the plate. Donaldson took a wild hack, but came up missing as he was geared up for the fastball. The next pitch was a slider in the dirt to strike him out. The next batter, Bautista grounded out to shortstop on a first pitch fastball to end the inning.

The second inning started off with a hard hit single by Dioner Navarro, but Sabathia was able to retire the next two guys. Danny Valencia flied out to center on a first pitch fastball, and Dalton Pompey struck out looking on a fastball inside. The next batter, Dayan Viciedo, was able to take a poorly located slider and send it to right-center field to score Navarro from first. Devin Travis would slap a single to left to bring in Viciedo from second. Josh Thole would then send a changeup to left over Brett Gardner who was playing in. After a relay throw from Didi GregoriusBrian McCann was able to come up with a nice scoop and tag out Travis at the plate, avoiding a third earned run for Sabathia.

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The main takeaway from his performance was how his knee felt after injuring it last season.

“It felt great and thats why I’m so excited. To be able to go out there and work and not worry about that. I can just really worry about where I’m throwing my pitches and not worry about my knee every pitch. It felt good and I’m just ready for the next step to get out there and keep going, next bullpen, and next start, and get ready to go.”

Overall, Sabathia was impressive with his fastball velocity and location. The most surprising part was seeing him hit 96 MPH on two separate occasions. His other pitches were sub-par, but it’s his first start since May of last season, so there was a lot of nerves as he said he wasn’t able to shake them. The rest of spring will be focused on pitching deeper into games and making sure the right knee isn’t bothering him. When asked if he could be a 200 innings pitcher in 2015, Sabathia responded “If I’m healthy, of course.”

Next: What will the Yankees' record be in 2015?

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