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02/28/10 6:45 PM EST

CC throws BP to Yanks batters

Ace making spring debut against Phillies on Thursday

TAMPA, Fla. -- The crowd at George M. Steinbrenner Field cheered after CC Sabathia's second pitch shattered the bat of non-roster catcher Mike Rivera, producing a weak flare into center field and the echo of dead wood.

You wouldn't compare the intensity level to the last time Sabathia saw a hitter standing at home plate, in Game 4 of the World Series, but the 28 pitches Sabathia threw Sunday have the Yankees ace ready for the Grapefruit League to begin.

"I feel good," Sabathia said. "The bullpens have been going well. I'll be fine. I'm looking forward to it, and today definitely helped to get back going."

The Yankees modified the early spring schedule slightly for Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte after last November's Fall Classic, having them throw three bullpen sessions and one batting practice before making the standard six starts in exhibition games.

Sabathia's mound session on Sunday was pushed back a day by inclement weather, and his work against Rivera, Nick Johnson, Marcus Thames and Randy Winn was largely uncontested. Rivera actually hit the hardest ball off the big lefty, driving one to the wall in center.

"They didn't take many swings," Sabathia said. "But it's good to have that hitter judge your pitches. It doesn't matter whether they swing or not."

Sabathia will make his first Grapefruit League start at 1:05 p.m. ET on Thursday against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., matching up against Roy Halladay on MLB.TV. Sabathia said that he didn't expect any added sizzle to the game, joking that he'd be in the dugout "eating seeds and goofing off" while Halladay works.

"He's a great pitcher, but it's Spring Training," Sabathia said. "If I face off [against] him in the season, I'll probably be more concerned, because I'll have to hit."

Also on the mound Sunday, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes threw their second live batting practice sessions of the spring as they prepare to battle for the Yankees' fifth rotation spot.

Hughes got Alex Rodriguez to swing and miss through one fastball and foul another back, but A-Rod caught up to the -- in his words -- "easy cheese" later in the session, belting two long drives toward the wall. Hughes joked that Rodriguez was "setting me up."

"I don't like the cage thing, especially when A-Rod's taking you deep," Hughes said. "It's not fun. I tried not to look. It sounded good off the bat -- like thunder."

Chamberlain worked against A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Greg Golson and Austin Romine, and noted that his delivery and fastball command are feeling better.

"It's nice having guys in there and doing some things," Chamberlain said. "When I missed, I came back in and made a good pitch. It's always good to go in and have those hitters. It gives you a better read of what you're doing."

Rodriguez said that the spring competition between Chamberlain and Hughes should benefit the Yankees in 2010.

"They're both great young pitchers," Rodriguez said. "It's a great luxury for us to have. You can throw the balls up in the air and whoever comes down, I think the Yankees are the winners. It's a good problem to have."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that his players are looking forward to their first Grapefruit League action on Wednesday against the Pirates.

"I think everyone's kind of anxious to get going, because they're looking forward to competing," Girardi said. "Let's see some other guys."

Bombers bits: Mariano Rivera and Damaso Marte will throw their first bullpens of the spring on Monday, as will Chan Ho Park. ... Good news for Rays fans, A-Rod and Derek Jeter are both scheduled to make the trip to Port Charlotte, Fla., on March 19. ... Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he is not currently monitoring any other Major League free agents.

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