It feels good to get the first, “I told you so,” out of the way. If you read this weeks’ third Spring Training edition of the Bronx is Boiling, I told you not to worry about C.C. Sabathia. This past Sunday in Panama, he put most of those concerns to rest.
Sure, there were reasons for some concern. He was coming off one of the worst seasons of his career and his velocity has been down since last season. Going into the second game of the Legends Series, he had an atrocious 5.40 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. In fact, a week ago, CC was so bad he summed it up in three simple words. “I stunk today,” he told reporters after allowing three runs on four hits over just three innings.
That was not the case on Sunday. A mere five days later, Carsten Charles lit up the Marlins line-up. He threw 5 scoreless, no-hit innings while walking no one and striking out 5. “It’s good, but as critical as I was last time, I don’t want to get too excited about pitching well,” Sabathia commented. “It’s still spring training. I’m still working on stuff.”
The “stuff” Sabathia is referring to is the newly learned cutter he has added to his arsenal this spring. Before this game, however, the big guy and catcher Francisco Cervelli decided to go old-school CC and concentrate on his patented two-seam fastball and change-up. Joe Girardi couldn’t have been happier with this decision. Girardi described C.C.’s outing as, “effective with his fastball/change-up combination. Did a great job of keeping the ball down, getting swings and misses. I thought his command was really good.” Girardi even had Sabathia hurl 12 extra pitches in the bullpen to really stretch him out upon his exit Sunday.
So, it seems when C.C. is doing what C.C. is use to doing: he is pitching just fine. It is honing his cutter that needs work, and that is exactly why spring training is so long. He only threw two cutters in his 5 innings on Sunday. “I really want my pitches that I know I can throw working well going into the season and then still work on the cutter on the sides and playing catch,” he told reporters.
The energy behind Sabathia may have helped out as well. The 22,022 in attendance at Rod Carew Stadium were loudly cheering for the Yankees before and during both games. Captain Derek Jeter explained, “It was very electric in the stands. The fans were very energetic. They care a lot about the sport of baseball. I’m happy I had this opportunity to come out here.” So is C.C. Maybe he had to leave Tampa for a few days to exorcise those pesky baseball demons that get a player in a rut.
Sabathia, like his new cutter, will be a work in progress this spring and maybe even into the early parts of the regular season. He must master the art of pitching like a crafty veteran as opposed to simply overpowering people as a young flame thrower. If there is one person who can figure out a way to do it, it’s the ace of the Yankees’ staff. If he continues to pitch like he did this past Sunday, he will alleviate a lot of pressure off this new-look rotation. Until then, don’t worry about C.C. and remember… I told you so.