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02/20/10 3:30 PM EST

Sabathia not shying away from workload

Spring action might be trimmed, but CC ready for long haul

TAMPA, Fla. -- It is easy to consider CC Sabathia the most sure thing in the Yankees' rotation for the upcoming season. The left-handed ace certainly views himself in that light, and with good reason.

Without Sabathia's contributions as a 19-game winner and playoff standout, the 2009 season might have ended in a much different fashion, something the Yankees acknowledged when they plotted to protect his bullets to some extent this spring.

But while Sabathia will accept whatever breathers are available to him, he wants to make one thing perfectly clear -- if duty calls for another heavy workload, and it probably will, he promises to be ready for it.

"It's too soon to even think that way," Sabathia said. "I feel like I want to take the ball every time, whether it's on three days' rest or whatever. I feel like I'm good to go. I'm not worried about saving my arm. Any time I get a chance to go out there and take the ball, I want it."

Sabathia threw his first official bullpen session of Spring Training on Saturday, firing about 35 fastballs and changeups into Jorge Posada's glove. It was a session he was itching for -- even despite a World Series that pushed into November, Sabathia couldn't resist beginning to play catch after only three weeks off.

"I can't take too much time off," Sabathia said. "A month is about all I really do in the offseason, ever since I was about 21 years old. I just like to play catch three days a week -- something light, make sure I'm getting that motion."

The Yankees weren't about to dissuade Sabathia from following the track that helped him complete 724 regular-season innings over the past three years, and the lefty even invited Joba Chamberlain to his New Jersey home one wintry day to play catch in the yard.

But manager Joe Girardi had some concerns about Sabathia's heavy workload, which has seen him pitch in the postseason three consecutive years with the Indians, Brewers and Yankees.

In a chat with pitching coach Dave Eiland, Girardi made the point that the Yankees should probably ease Sabathia's spring workload a tad, though there are no thoughts that he won't be able to duplicate the regular-season duty all over again.

"I think one of the things that you see in CC, he's very big and strong, number one," Girardi said. "Number two, he's very efficient. When he's throwing his 100 to 110 pitches, it's usually 10 to 15 an inning. He's not throwing 20 pitches every inning and he's not laboring out there.

"He's quick and crisp, similar to what the [Greg] Madduxes and the [Tom] Glavines did when they would log all those innings. I think they're able to do it a lot of times because of their pitches per inning; they don't have to work as hard."

Sabathia said that he was able to get adjusted well during camp last spring, and it paid dividends during the season, noting that the only increased media demands came on the days before he pitched and after the game. He said that the Yankees' clubhouse atmosphere made it easy to assimilate and do his job.

"Every time you go out there, no matter what team you're on, you expect to win and you want to win," Sabathia said. "In here, I feel like it's less pressure. You've got A-Rod on your team, [Derek] Jeter, Posada. These are great players. All you've got to do is your part and the team is going to win."

And, of course, handle the increased attention to detail. There was a game last spring when Sabathia was exposed to the panic button of the New York media, when he was roughed up for five runs in 1 2/3 innings by the Tigers on March 11.

Sabathia said that after that forgettable Grapefruit League game, he actually received calls from people asking, "What's wrong with you?"

"That's to be expected," Sabathia said with a smile. "I'm sure if I go out against Philly and give up another home run to Chase Utley in my first start [on March 4], it'll be a big story."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.