Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Nervous' Sabathia Returns

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Nervous' Sabathia Returns

Article excerpt

TAMPA, Fla. - CC Sabathia couldn't imagine his anxiety level rising for a mere exhibition game. But it happened on Tuesday night, a wave of jitters that began as he warmed up in the Yankees bullpen.

"I was really nervous, more so than normal," Sabathia said of a feeling that lasted his full two innings at Steinbrenner Field. "That was kind of weird. But I think it's just me being back out there [for] my first game."

Facing a big league lineup for the first time since May 10 at Milwaukee, Sabathia followed a perfect first inning with a shaky second in a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

Sabathia's self-described "bum knee" responded well Tuesday, but his command needs fine-tuning. He gave up two runs on four hits - two of them doubles - to complete his 31-pitch outing.

For Sabathia, the victory was in "being able to go 100 percent, full effort [and] be able to let the ball go knowing that I'm not going to feel anything."

Right-knee surgery last summer limited Sabathia to just eight starts in 2014 and ushered in a new round of questions for a veteran lefty with high mileage and decreasing velocity entering his age-35 season.

Is he still a 200-inning starter? Will he get the ball for a 12th career opening day start?

Sabathia has started all six openers since he became a Yankee in 2009, but he downplayed the need to start the April 6 season opener against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

"I hate to sound like I don't care. I do," Sabathia said. "But whenever I get a chance to be out there, I'll be happy with that.

"I want to be there in September, or Game 1 of whatever playoff series we're in."

Masahiro Tanaka and Sabathia are the top candidates to start the opener, but manager Joe Girardi said the club has been patient with both starters "because we want to see where we're at" coming off 2014 injuries.

"Step one really was a positive for me," Girardi said after Sabathia's outing. "I liked the way the ball was coming out of his hand."

Sabathia had a fast first inning, getting Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista on groundouts to shortstop Didi Gregorius in between Josh Donaldson's strikeout on a 1-2 change-up. …

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