TAMPA, Fla. - How much stock should people put in spring training numbers, specifically the ones put up by CC Sabathia this month?
The amiable lefthander had a colorful response to that question Saturday afternoon.
"I don't give a [expletive] what stock they put in it," Sabathia said. "It is what it is. I've had spring trainings where I've given up a lot of runs and went out and had a good season. I've had spring trainings like last year where I [pitched well] and gave up [six] runs in the first game [against Houston]. You can put stock in whatever you want. I'm not worried about it."
Sabathia, speaking in the clubhouse after allowing four runs, five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in five innings of a game against Pirates minor-leaguers, was not in a bad mood.
The 34-year-old lefthander -- who, not counting Saturday's statistics in the minor-league game, has an 11.57 ERA in two Grapefruit League starts -- has felt strong throughout spring training, something he said continued Saturday.
"I felt great," said Sabathia, who allowed two homers in his 69-pitch outing, which came on the heels of a start in which the Mets went deep three times last Sunday in Port St. Lucie. "Fastball was pretty good, changeup was better."
Brian McCann, making the short trip down the road to the club's minor-league complex to catch Sabathia, agreed.
"All the way around, I thought it was really good," McCann said. "When you go over there [pitching in a minor- league game], you're not pitching to scouting reports. All in all, his changeup was really good, threw his fastball to both sides of the plate and the slider was great today."
Veteran pitchers for the most part despise pitching in minor-league games -- Mariano Rivera headed that list -- because the hitters take a grip-it-and-rip-it approach. There are no scouting reports either way, with the young hitters generally going into their at-bats against the established pitcher without much of a game plan.
Hence, the first-pitch-of-the-game homer Sabathia allowed to Alen Hanson.
"I think it should be a rule against swinging at the first pitch of the game. That's my take on it," Sabathia said, only half-joking.
As for the three-run homer he allowed to catching prospect Elias Diaz, Sabathia said that was a case of throwing a changeup in a situation that he wouldn't during a regular-season game.
"Today was a day trying to work on the changeup," he said. "I get runners on first and second, threw a couple of changeups, me and Mac wanted to work on it, so I threw it again, guy hits a homer."
Numbers aside, Sabathia and manager Joe Girardi have been encouraged by his performance.
Sabathia, who missed most of last season because of degenerative cartilage in his right knee, entered spring training as one of the club's biggest question marks. More than a few insiders questioned whether he could make it through spring training healthy, and even if he could, how much would he have on a fastball that struggled to get to 90 mph the previous two years?
Well, Sabathia has gotten through nearly the entire month of March. Although his fastball has not been close to what it was in his prime years -- consistently in the mid-90s -- it has been better than many expected, sitting at 88 to 91 mph. He peaked at 92 mph Saturday.
"Health," Sabathia said of what he's been most encouraged by. "And the fact I feel stronger. A little more power on the mound and my delivery's pretty good right now. I have a lot to look forward to."
One of those things won't be the season opener, which Sabathia started the previous six years for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka will get the nod this year, which is fine with Sabathia.
"I'm excited for him," said Sabathia, who will make one more exhibition start before pitching the third game of the regular season. "I think it will be a good deal and I know he's excited to get a chance to do that."
"I'm excited to get a chance to be able to enjoy Opening Day," he added. "It should be fun."