Coming into training camp fresh off the worst year of his career last season, C.C. Sabathia has been flooded with questions about his velocity, his durability, and his confidence. While it’s looking likely his velocity may never quite return to what it was, the Yankees aren’t worrying…and it’s looking more and more like there’s no reason to. While it is only spring training, the way CC performed was extremely encouraging. Sabathia wrapped up an impressive spring Thursday, tossing four scoreless innings in a 4-2 win over the Pirates at McKechnie Field. The outing lowered the lefthander’s spring ERA to 1.29, giving him the confidence that he can continue to lead the Yankees’ staff despite the drop in velocity. “My arm feels good, body feels good,” Sabathia said. “I have no aches and pains or anything. I’m ready to go on Tuesday.”
That’s a big change from a year ago, when Sabathia left camp in 2013 with doubts in his mind about his ability to be effective, worried about the fallout from his off-season elbow surgery and his weight loss. “We keep talking about last year, last year; my stuff wasn’t the same,” Sabathia said. “I wasn’t as strong. I didn’t have any life on my fastball. I just wasn’t the same guy. “I didn’t know that the weight loss was going to affect me that much,” Sabathia continued. “There were just some games that I was short, just didn’t have the stuff. It was frustrating, but I can accept getting beat this year if I do just because I feel so much better. “I think my stuff is a lot better than it was last year.”
Someone CC has begun to try and model himself after is Andy Pettitte. Like Pettitte several years ago, Sabathia had to come to the realization that his fastball might never be the same. Instead of being able to overpower hitters, Sabathia has had to alter his repertoire, relying on his command more than ever. He worked on his changeup all winter. By the time he reported to camp last month, Sabathia said he felt better about the pitch than he had in a long time. “I felt like it was going to be really good and I had a good feel for it,” Sabathia said. “In the early bullpens, that was something that I really focused on.”
Pettitte has also been teaching Sabathia how to throw a cutter. There’s no doubt when you’re not throwing as hard as you used to, you’re going to need as many different pitches as possible, and Sabathia feels it could be an effective weapon for him going forward. “It’s a good pitch,” Sabathia said. “I’m going to use it.” While there are going to questions surrounding Sabathia all season, the biggest one of all is will Sabathia ever return to his dominant ace self? That is something the Yankees and their fans are anxious to find out.