03/11/09 5:45 PM ET
CC lacks feel, but confident he'll find it
Ace yet to show top form in first Spring Training with Yankees
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
Despite the money and the expectations and the hope for perfection, there was bound to come an outing in which CC Sabathia would be wholly ineffective.
Might as well come in Spring Training.
Sabathia experienced his first frustrations with the Yankees on Wednesday, serving up five runs to the Tigers in 1 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits, walked a batter and struck out none. And he came out of it -- considering the time of year -- concerned to a greater degree than might be expected.
"You definitely have to think about it," Sabathia said. "I couldn't get out of the second inning."
After a rocky but scoreless first inning, two bloop singles, two harder hits and Gary Sheffield's long home run conspired against Sabathia in the second. He left the game after Sheffield's blast, retiring as many batters as he allowed to score.
Complaining about a lack of feel for his cut fastball and an inability to locate on both sides of the plate, Sabathia explained that these things happen during Spring Training, when pitchers possess only a semblance of the form that helps them succeed during the summer.
"I can't worry about it," Sabathia said. "Last year, I had a spring where I pitched great and then started the first half terrible. So hopefully, if I have a so-so spring, then I'll start the first half on fire."
Sabathia's 4.50 Grapefruit League ERA in six starts last year grew into a 13.50 ERA through his first four regular-season outings with the Indians, lending credence to that view. And though Sabathia should start four more Grapefruit League games before what's likely to be his Opening Day assignment in Baltimore -- still plenty of time to reduce his current 12.27 ERA -- he won't have time to shake all of Wednesday's blemishes from the record.
|"The biggest thing with CC is that his mechanics are sound and he feels good. Those are my two concerns in Spring Training, and so far, both of those have been good."|
-- Yankees manager|
More alarming than the end result was that Sabathia said he had virtually no feel for his cutter, throwing only two where he wanted. It's admittedly a pitch that takes longer than most to perfect, and Sabathia's struggles aren't anything unique as far as starting pitchers go. But most around Yankees camp can't help but view Sabathia with a more discerning eye, considering the attention that comes with a $161 million contract.
Not to mention that his cut fastball is a pretty important pitch.
"I'll continue to work on that," Sabathia said. "I need that pitch with two strikes."
Sabathia will throw a bullpen session this weekend, start again in five days and hope for better results. In the meantime, he'll continue working on his other assignment, assimilating into the Yankees clubhouse.
He's already taken Joba Chamberlain, A.J. Burnett, Brian Bruney and Chien-Ming Wang to Orlando Magic games, turning teammates into friends. He's gained a student in Chamberlain and a mentor in Andy Pettitte. And for those reasons, he's developed a positive reputation within the clubhouse -- something that, so far, has surpassed his performance on the mound.
"It's just a part of who I am," Sabathia said. "I didn't try to come in and be a rah-rah guy. I like to hang out with my teammates and talk to them and get to know them. I guess that's who I am. I didn't come in intentionally trying to overdo it."
How Sabathia reacts to his first bad outing in New York -- and there will be a bad regular-season outing or two -- might be more telling than how he reacted to this one. Standing outside the visitors' clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium, icing his left shoulder and elbow, Sabathia seemed concerned but not worried. The cutter will come, and so will the success. Eventually.
"The biggest thing with CC is that his mechanics are sound and he feels good," Girardi said. "Those are my two concerns in Spring Training, and so far, both of those have been good."
Bombers bits: Jorge Posada remains on track to catch his first Grapefruit League game on Sunday. Posada, rehabbing from right shoulder surgery, walked twice as the designated hitter in Wednesday's game. ... Reliever Edwar Ramirez, who threw live batting practice on Wednesday, should see his first game action on Saturday. Ramirez missed time due to a bout of right shoulder bursitis. ... Brian Bruney, Jose Veras and Mark Melancon all pitched scoreless innings of relief for the Yankees. Melancon has not allowed a run in five spring innings.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.