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So there was a moment of concern yesterday when the big left-hander was hit on the right shin by a hard-hit one-hopper off the bat of minor league infielder Jose Pirela in the first inning on a back field in a minor league game.
The “new’’ athletic Sabathia got himself in trouble on the play.
“Actually, I tried to kick it,’’ a smiling Sabathia said later about the infield hit.
As he talked, Sabathia had a bandage on his right shin, but proclaimed the bruise to be “no problem at all.’’
LEAN AND MEAN: Yankees ace CC Sabathia is a leaner, meaner pitcher this spring, courtesy of a new training regimen that has made him more athletic, but nearly led to an injury yesterday when a batted ball bruised his right shin.
It was no problem for him pitching and fielding. Sabathia did give up a triple past third to the next batter, David Adams, but then mowed down the Double-A Yankees, breezing through six innings, using only 65 pitches, 50 of them strikes. He gave up five hits, including a single to Preston Mattingly, only one walk and one run as he struck out four.
Sabathia was sharp and much more athletic on the mound, one of the reasons he worked hard to get himself in shape over the winter. In fact, two batters after being hit, he went far to his right make a play and throw out Cody Johnson.
“I feel like [the conditioning program is] paying off,’’ Sabathia said. “I just want to keep the momentum going, keep the intensity up. I felt good getting off the mound today, so that’s definitely encouraging.
“I had lost that [athleticism] for a little bit,’’ Sabathia said, referring to his weight gain last season. “Getting back down [in weight] I’m doing the things that I am supposed to do.’’
Over the last two postseasons, Sabathia’s ERA is 6.27. Those are not ace-like numbers.
Sabathia will start Tuesday, follow that with a Sunday start at new Marlins Park, and be ready for the season opener against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. He thinks the Yankees are stronger than last year and is completely in the corner of the team’s new big pitcher, young Michael Pineda.
“I think we can be better than we were last year, and we were really good last year,’’ Sabathia said of the pitching staff, which now includes Andy Pettitte. “I’m excited about the team. It’s pretty much the same core guys coming back. The team chemistry is strong.’’
Sabathia said he has to laugh over comments regarding Pineda’s loss of velocity. How good will Pineda be?
“He’s going to be great,’’ Sabathia said. “Michael is feeling well and is throwing awesome. He’s a big strong kid, we know he’s healthy and we know the velocity will be there. It’s early, it’s March and we don’t really need him to start throwing hard until August.’’
Hopefully, Pineda finds his velocity long before then, but Sabathia’s point was down the stretch is where it’s at.
“[Pineda is] genuinely a good person and sometimes when you are that way, you have the tendency to speak the truth a lot,’’ Sabathia added. “That can be good and bad. He’ll learn. He’s got all the talent in the world and he’s a good person and he works hard. I’m glad they put [his locker] next to me.’’
The chemistry got better, too, with the comeback kid, Pettitte.
“Anytime you can get a guy like that it’s huge,’’ Sabathia said. “We expect him to pitch well and do what he always does. Just having him in the clubhouse is big. I’m excited about hanging out with him.’’
Sabathia loves the Oakland Raiders, and had this to say about the Jets landing Tim Tebow: “It should be exciting. I don’t know what to expect from him or what they expect from him but he’s a good football player and we’ll just wait and see what happens.’’
Did he want his Raiders to go after the QB?
“I didn’t,’’ Sabathia said. “I’m good with [Carson Palmer as] the quarterback. I have to be, we gave up so many picks for him.’’
Sabathia knows quarterbacks and aces must come up big.
CC Sabathia, Sabathia, Yankees ace CC Sabathia