CC pleased with command, velocity in first start

Southpaw strikes out two over two innings against Blue Jays

TAMPA, Fla. -- It was only Spring Training, but CC Sabathia was as nervous as he can remember. Warming up in the bullpen before his first start since May 10, the former Cy Young winner was eager to get back on the mound and the jitters began to set in.

The biggest surprise for him was that they never stopped.

"That's the thing," the starting pitcher said. "It's weird. I think it was just the nerves of being in a game, so I never really settled in."

Sabathia lasted two innings and struck out two in his first Grapefruit League start of the season, throwing 31 pitches and allowing two earned runs on four hits. His velocity hovered around 90 mph and his command felt good despite needing some help from his defense to limit that damage.

Sabathia on his spring debut

The lefty got through the first inning in order, striking out Josh Donaldson and getting both Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista to ground out to the shortstop. In the second, though, the Blue Jays began to square him up.

Dioner Navarro led off with a single and scored on a two-out double by outfielder Dayan Viciedo. Second baseman Devon Travis added a single to drive home Viciedo before being thrown out at home on a double by catcher Josh Thole.

"Obviously, you don't want to give up runs, but it being Spring Training, it is what it is," Sabathia said. "But just being able to command the baseball and let it go, throw it hard, it feels good."

Manager Joe Girardi said he was "really pleased" with Sabathia's outing, partly because Sabathia got through the start without aggravating his knee, but also because of the actual performance he put on.

"I liked the way the ball was coming out of his hand tonight," Girardi said. "I just thought he threw the ball really well. I'm not worried about the runs he gave up because he's still trying to work on things, obviously, but first step really positive for me."

Sabathia hasn't been at his best the last two seasons. The former All-Star stumbled to a 4.78 ERA in 2013 and that number had ballooned to 5.28 in 2014 before he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Manager Joe Girardi, however, says there's still a certain calm the potential ace brings. Even when he's not pitching well, he's a leader in the clubhouse and a virtual lock to throw 200 innings if he's healthy, a disclaimer even he uses when speaking of the goal.

CC Sabathia first ST Start Combo NYY

"You miss his personality," Girardi said. "There's something about having him and knowing that he's going every fifth day and it's a good feeling in the clubhouse, the way he brings a clubhouse together because of his personality, I think you miss that."

Girardi also said he isn't worrying about whether Sabathia will start Opening Day yet. He wants to have reasonable time to assess both Sabathia and fellow starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka before he makes a decision.

It's not something that has Sabathia worried, either.

"I've done it a couple times," he said.

David Wilson is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.