TAMPA, Fla. -- In the surest sign yet that Jorge Posada's surgically repaired right shoulder will be prepared for Opening Day, the Yankees catcher unloaded strong throws to cut down three baserunners on Sunday.

Continuing to strengthen his shoulder, the 37-year-old Posada received CC Sabathia in a Minor League game against Pirates prospects, nabbing three of four potential basestealers with clean tosses to second base.

"You can't compare what I was feeling last year," Posada said. "I couldn't do that. I couldn't make three throws like that. It's good to be back."

The Yankees have set the bar at approximately 100 to 110 games behind the plate for Posada, who cut his season short to undergo surgery in late July and repair a damaged right rotator cuff.

He had previously been 0-for-4 in throwing out runners since resuming catching duties last week, including three Yankees prospects who swiped bags in an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday. Nabbing the first of what he hopes will be many runners helped his confidence, Posada said.

"Now you know you can trust your arm again," Posada said.

Catching on the chain-link fenced fields of the Yankees' Himes Avenue complex, Posada's first successful in-game throw since the procedure cut down the Bucs' Brian Friday attempting to steal in the fourth inning.

Posada also nabbed Gemmy Gonzalez and Shelby Ford in the fifth inning, jogging off the field after catching Ford, only to realize that the Pirates were still batting and prompting Sabathia to laugh on the mound.

As Posada would later explain, he forgot that Gonzalez had pinch-run as a "ghost" at first base earlier in the frame, thus permitting Pittsburgh to continue batting against Sabathia for one more out -- tricky areas of Minor League spring action that Posada soon won't have to worry about.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Posada will have to be ready for skeptics to try him out, especially after runners ran wild on his weakened shoulder last season.

"I'm going to look at his arm strength, and I'm going to watch him throw in between innings to see," Girardi said. "If I'm [an opposing] manager, I'm not going to send some of my slower players just to see. But in a sense, he's probably going to be tested."

It was a better showing than Friday, when Posada had urged Andy Pettitte to switch to a slide-step motion to give him a fighting chance to throw the runner out -- something that Pettitte repeatedly promises to work on in the spring, but ultimately finds uncomfortable to put into practice.

Sabathia -- who limited the Pirates to one run and seven hits in five innings, walking one and striking out three (81 pitches, 51 strikes) -- said he always uses a slide-step with speedy runners aboard, so Posada had to make no such request.

That increase in delivery speed to the plate helped, Posada said.

"We are getting closer," Posada said. "The main thing here is catching and throwing. I'm happy that I was catching CC and that everything worked out today. He gave me a good chance to throw people out."