Facing uncertain role, CC in uncharted waters

Facing uncertain role, CC in uncharted waters

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have maintained that their plan is to take the best five starters for their rotation, regardless of salary or stature. CC Sabathia believes that he will earn a spot, but the left-hander now has only two Spring Training starts remaining to prove it.

Sabathia was very hittable on Friday and the Orioles took advantage, knocking him around for seven runs (four earned) and six hits over 3 2/3 innings in a 11-2 Yankees loss. It was the second straight shaky outing for Sabathia, who said he isn't worried.

"We'll just see," Sabathia said. "I've never been a good Spring Training pitcher, so, it is what it is."

Yankees Spring Training info

Mark Trumbo hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Sabathia, who said that he was unable to get any action on his changeup and needed to work on his two-seam fastball.

"I thought he pitched better than the numbers indicated, but he made some mistakes," manager Joe Girardi said. "He got a lot of ground balls. He gave up the home run to Trumbo. That ball was hit hard. He gave up a couple of other hard-hit balls, but a lot of his hits were ground balls. I saw progress, but we need to be more consistent."

Girardi acknowledges that Sabathia has never been at his best in Grapefruit League play, but usually he comes into camp assured of a spot. Sabathia has no such luxury this year, trying to fend off Ivan Nova and Bryan Mitchell for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

Friday's effort bloated Sabathia's spring ERA to 7.36, while Nova (2.00 ERA) and Mitchell (1.13 ERA) have both looked sharp.

"This is not going to be an easy decision. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of time talking about it," Girardi said.

The Yankees would like to believe that Sabathia took a significant step forward late last year, posting a 2.17 ERA over his final five starts after discovering a stabilizing knee brace. Sabathia said that should count for something, but Girardi said that they will also weigh what they saw this spring as part of the equation.

"I'm sure it's really different, because he's been the guy that's usually shouldered the biggest responsibility of any team he's been on," Girardi said. "He was expected to be the ace; the first game of the playoffs, he's the guy going on the mound. So I'm sure this is different for him. It's definitely different for him."

Further complicating matters is that Sabathia has never appeared out of the bullpen; Girardi said that the topic was not discussed at any time last year, when Sabathia finished 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA.

"I've got a couple more starts, so, I feel healthy and I'll be ready to go," Sabathia said.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.