TAMPA, Fla. -- The results weren't there for CC Sabathia this spring, but his surgically-repaired right knee made it through three starts without discomfort, and so the Yankees left-hander is feeling optimistic as the regular season nears.
"I think if we can stay healthy, I expect us to be at the top of the division," Sabathia said. "We've definitely got the talent here. It's just a matter of us staying out on the field. It's encouraging that everyone came out of Spring Training healthy and feeling good, so hopefully we can carry that into the season."
Sabathia completed his spring on Friday, pitching 5 1/3 innings in the Yankees' 8-2 loss to the Nationals at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Washington scored three first-inning runs on Sabathia before he found his grip and settled down, permitting five hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
The 83-pitch outing ended an abbreviated spring for the 34-year-old, who was on a conservative program and pitched just 10 Grapefruit League innings. Sabathia has made it abundantly clear he does not care about spring results, but he owned a 8.10 ERA, permitting 14 hits while walking three and striking out nine.
"I'm happy with the stuff, and I think the consistency will come. I do," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think you'll see a different guy. He hasn't pitched a lot. He's had to deal with a lot of injuries. The arm strength is much better than it's been. His knee has been good. So I'm encouraged."
Sabathia said that he would like to throw more strikes when the season begins, but his legs have been feeling stronger as the spring concluded. He is pleased with how his two-seam fastball and slider have come around.
"I feel great. I feel like I'm just a couple of ticks away from where I want to be," Sabathia said.
His first start is scheduled for Thursday against the Blue Jays, and after making 11 career Opening Day starts (six with the Yankees), Sabathia is looking forward to having a front-row seat as Masahiro Tanaka works the Yanks' season opener on Monday.
"Just to be able to relax and be a part of it, it's been a while," Sabathia said. "That's usually a pretty nerve-wracking time for me, so it'll be fun."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.