Yankees' Sabathia 'felt great' in 1st spring game

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia has returned to the mound for the first time since undergoing a heart procedure in December.

Sabathia allowed one run and two hits over two innings on Thursday in a minor league exhibition game, striking out three for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Toledo, Detroit's Triple-A affiliate.

Sabathia, who has announced he's retiring after the season, said he "felt great" after his 26-pitch outing.

"No problems. I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand pretty good. All positive," Sabathia said.

Tigers center field prospect Daz Cameron, the son of former major leaguer Mike Cameron, had a first-inning double and Hector Sanchez hit an opposite-field homer to right during the second. Sabathia will make another minor league appearance on Tuesday against Philadelphia Phillies prospects. He's expected to miss his first two or three regular-season starts.

"He's progressed pretty well," Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "We just need to build him up. He's going through an early part of spring training."

The 38-year-old had a stent inserted this winter after a blockage was found in an artery from his heart. He has had chronic right knee problems that required several operations. Sabathia also has a five-game suspension pending for hitting the Tampa Bay Rays' Jesus Sucre with a pitch in his final start last season.

The 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, Sabathia is 246-153 with a 3.70 ERA and 2,986 strikeouts in 18 major league seasons. He was 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts last season. This will be his 11th year with the Yankees.

First baseman Greg Bird was scratched from Thursday's road game against St. Louis due to right elbow soreness. He was hit by a pitch on Wednesday.

"He probably could have played," manager Aaron Boone said. "It was me saying, 'Go home.'"

Bird took Wade Miley's offering off his right elbow during the first inning of Wednesday's loss to Houston but remained in the game. In the midst of a two-game spring road trip, the Yankees spent the night in the West Palm Beach area before playing St. Louis in Jupiter on Thursday.

Bird hit 11 homers in 46 games during his 2015 debut season. Various injuries and ineffectiveness prevented Bird from playing more than 82 games in any year since then.

Throughout the spring he has battled Luke Voit for the starting first baseman job, hitting .333 with three homers in 51 plate appearances. Voit has four homers while hitting .316 in Grapefruit League play.

"I don't know that anyone's won or lost it," Boone said. "Both guys are good players in my eyes. At a certain point we may be up against making a very difficult decision."

The Yankees will have more time than originally expected to make that decision. With center fielder Aaron Hicks expected to open the season on the injured list with a back injury, there's room for both Bird and Voit on the Opening Day roster.

"I'd say there's a very good possibility," Boone said.

Back in Tampa, pitcher Luis Severino played catch on consecutive days for the first time since being shut down because of rotator cuff inflammation, throwing 50 times off flat ground.

"It went well," Boone said. "It felt even better because I think he was more comfortable now, second day playing catch, letting it go. But no pain, so another positive day for him."

Severino will not throw on Friday and Boone is uncertain as to when the Yankees' ace will progress to throwing off a mound.

The righty will begin the season on the injured list, with the Yankees asking him to complete a full spring training program before returning to the majors.

"He's moving, at least, in the right direction now that he's playing catch," Boone said.

Two-time All-Star Gio Gonzalez, signed to a minor league contract on Wednesday, is scheduled to pitch for the Yankees on Saturday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.