The Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in spring training action Thursday afternoon with a score of 4-2. Stats normally don’t matter for established players in Grapefruit or Cactus league play, but for players like CC Sabathia, who struggled last season, they can be meaningful.
During this matinee, the lefty who lost weight and put on muscle in the off-season, shutout the Pirates in four innings while recording five ground-ball outs during his final Grapefruit League appearance. Sabathia allowed three runs in three innings in his second appearance of spring training, but since then he has turned it around to throw 17 scoreless innings.
He has now pitched in four games during spring training and his final stats of the exhibition season include an ERA of 1.29, 16 strikeouts, three runs and only three walks. This does not necessarily prove that he has turned the corner from last season’s 4.78 ERA campaign, but it is promising that he has only allowed runs in one game and his effectiveness has increased as the regular season has gotten closer.
In reference to his scoreless innings streak going into the regular season, and the upcoming start of the season, Sabathia said: “Those innings don’t count once the season starts, but I feel good. I feel good going into it. Me an Mac (Brian McCann) have been working really well, the changeup is good, so I am ready to go.”
In reference to how important the 17 scoreless innings were and if they were a confidence builder going into the season, Sabathia said: “Yeah, I guess. I have been playing long enough to know that it is spring training, so I need to go out and pitch better than I did last year, and this is the first step.”
This is what Sabathia had to say about working with McCann for the first time after his arrival as a free agent from the Atlanta Braves: “He has been unbelievable. I always like to have a close relationship with my catchers. The ones in the past that I have had, Russell, Jorge, you know even going back to Victor Martinez in Cleveland, and Mac is right up there, working with them and being able to talk to them. He is a seven-time All Star, he has got it! It feels good to have someone back there that you can count on.”
On if they are on the same page by now: “Yes, I think so. A couple of times today it just showed where I wanted to throw a pitch and he put it right down. That just tells me that he is paying attention to what I am trying to do. It is a good feeling.”
His connection between Brian McCann could be a good sign to go along with his success in Florida based on the overwhelming upgrade McCann is behind the plate over Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, who caught most of his games last season. Sabathia’s fastball is not what it once was, but based on his track record, it seems like he will be able to locate it and find a way to make it work for him.
His changeup and curveball have been pitches that have helped him get outs in the past, and this season based on Andy Pettitte’s help, he will now have the cutter in his arsenal. The retired Pettitte started to teach Sabathia the pitch late last season. Being able to add this pitch to his repertoire can only help him get hitters out at a more consistent rate than last season.
Also, on Thursday morning, these are the players that were reassigned to minor-league camp and will not be coming north with the Yankees: Preston Claiborne, Danny Burawa, David Herndon, Fred Lewis, Chris Leroux, Jim Miller, Yoshinori Tateyama, Russ Canzler, Scott Sizemore and Zoilo Almonte. Some of those players will definitely be called up to help the team at some point. Claiborne had a lot of success in the bullpen during his first two months after being called up last season, but his case was hurt by pitching horribly in spring training, which included allowing six earned runs in Wednesday’s game.