Sabathia had an encouraging first start of spring training even though he allowed two runs

CC Sabathia during spring training last season.

CC Sabathia during spring training last season.

The Yankees lost 4-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday, but a few positives can be taken out of this game. CC Sabathia made his first start of the exhibition season, Mark Teixeira hit his first home run and Jose Pirela continued to make his case to be the back-up middle infielder.

After only making eight starts last season and missing the final 5.5 months as a result of having a stem-cell shot in his right knee, Sabathia came away from his first competitive innings since last May pain free. He allowed four hits, two runs, zero walks and had two strikeouts in his two innings. Also, 22 of his 31 pitches were strikes.

According to Mark Feinsand, a scout’s radar gun in the first inning clocked Sabathia’s fastball at 90-92, with an average of 91. A YES Network radar gun even clocked him a 96 mph in the first inning. That average fastball is a few mph faster than it was last season, and it also means that he could get up to an average of 93-94 mph by the regular season.

These are Sabathia’s two strikeouts. One came in the first inning against Josh Donaldson and the other was in the second. He retired the side in order in the first stanza and allowed all of his hits in the second. Sabathia came away pleased with his performance overall based on being able to throw his fastball with some velocity.

Obviously you don’t want to give up runs, but its spring training, it is what it is,” he said. “Just being able to command the baseball, let it go, throw it hard, it feels good.” His strikeouts came on a change to (former All-Star) Donaldson, which he will be throwing a of this season, and a letter-high inside fastball to Dalton Pompey.

He might have allowed no damage in the second if Chase Headley was playing third instead of A-Rod. Rodriguez barely moved on a hard grounder hit near him to leadoff the second and then the two runs scored with two outs. If Headley was playing third it could have been an out instead of a single.

It’s a positive sign that Sabathia had no pain after his 31 pitches and seems optimistic about the season. Sabathia has pitched 200 innings eight times in his career, and GM Brian Cashman said that he expects that again from him this season.

The first run that the Yankees had came when Stephen Drew hit a single that scored Garrett Jones. That was Drew’s first RBI and he is now only hitting .143. The Yankees need him to find his swing during spring training so that he will be the hitter he was during the 2013 season.

Two innings later, Teixeira hit an impressive opposite field homer for his first round tripper since September 21. The Yankees need Teixeira to slug 25-30 homers this season.

Dellin Betances gave up a run on two hits in his inning pitched, and Kyle Davies, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, allowed the fourth Blue Jays run in his inning pitched. Justin Wilson, who will likely primarily pitch in the seventh inning, allowed a hit and a strikeout in his inning pitched.

Pirela continued to be the offensive standout of spring training as he hit a triple in his only at-bat after replacing Drew. That was his second triple of the exhibition season and he now has nine hits in 20 at-bats (.450). Brendan Ryan is getting close to being ready to play in a game again, but Pirela is much better on offense than Ryan is, which means that he should be able to show what he can do in the beginning of the season as the back-up middle infielder.

As of last night, every starter has made (at least) one exhibition start and has either dominated or in the case of Sabathia showed more velocity than expected. Sabathia will look to build on this in his next start while continuing to threw his change and locate and command his fastball with similar velocity.


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