TAMPA, Fla. - The Yankees' tenuous starting pitching plans got a tentative boost Tuesday night when CC Sabathia pitched two innings in his first spring training start.
After a perfect first inning, Sabathia gave up two runs and four hits in the second and was saved from further damage when Didi Gregorius threw out a runner at the plate to end the inning.
Sabathia threw 31 pitches (22 strikes) and was clocked at 96 mph on a fast radar gun. He struck out two and didn't walk a batter. Results hardly matter at this point, of course. All that matters is determining whether the 34-year-old lefthander can make more than the eight starts he was limited to last season because of knee surgery.
"It felt good,'' said Sabathia, who admitted being "nervous'' in his first trip to the mound since last May 10. "No complaints.''
So by that measure, it was a step forward. Whether Sabathia can stay healthy all season and get batters out at something like his former ace level will be discovered at dates to be determined -- the Yankees hope.
"Are there concerns that he can give us 200 [innings]? Yeah,'' Joe Girardi said. "I believe if he makes his 30 starts, 32 starts, we'll get 200 innings. But I've got to see how his knee's going to react. I don't think there's any guarantees.''
Sabathia cruised in the first inning, retiring Jose Reyes on a grounder to short, striking out Josh Donaldson on a slider in the dirt and getting Jose Bautista on a high chopper to short.
The YES Network radar gun -- which is believed to be 3 to 4 mph faster than scouts' guns -- had Sabathia's fastball in the low 90s, with one pitch clocked at 96.
"I think it's a good sign for you guys [reporters] so you can stop asking me,'' Sabathia said. "I don't really care.''
Dioner Navarro led off the second with a ground-ball single to the left of a statue-like Alex Rodriguez at third base. With the star-player portion of Toronto's lineup past him, Sabathia got Danny Valencia to fly to center and struck out Dalton Pompey looking at an inside fastball.
But Dayan Viciedo doubled home a run and Devon Travis followed with an RBI single to give Toronto a 2-0 lead. Former Met Josh Thole doubled over Brett Gardner's head in left, but Gregorius nailed Travis at the plate to end the inning.
Sabathia's former status as Opening Day starter probably already has passed to Masahiro Tanaka, who will make his second start Wednesday night against the Braves at Disney.
Sabathia is not fretting over it. "I want to be there in September or Game 1 of whatever playoff series we're in,'' he said. "I hate to sound like I don't care -- I do -- but whenever I get a chance to get out there, I'll be happy with that.''
Girardi has been holding off naming a starter for the April 6 opener against Toronto.
"Obviously, it has a lot of meaning,'' he said. "So we'll just see who's ready.''