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CC set to face Johan -- from plate

CC set to face Johan -- from plate

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia has had a fair amount of success in his career against Johan Santana, having won his past three starts against the Mets' ace left-hander. But Sunday night's matchup presents a new and different challenge for Sabathia, who will oppose Santana from the batter's box for the first time.

"It's the first time I ever get to hit off him," Sabathia said. "I'm excited for it. I don't know how excited I will be after the game tomorrow, but I'm excited now."

Sabathia has a right to look forward to stepping into Citi Field's left-handed batter's box. He's a career .261 hitter with three home runs -- two of which were hit in Interleague games while he was a member of the Indians. One of those long balls was a 440-foot drive off then-Dodgers righty and current teammate Chan Ho Park. In 44 lifetime Interleague at-bats, Sabathia has 13 hits, good for a .295 average.

"It's not that easy," Sabathia said when asked if getting back in the box were like riding a bike. "I just like to do it. I enjoy doing it. I have fun, I take it seriously. I'm excited to get the chance to do it again [on Sunday]."

Sabathia was excited enough about his first at-bat of 2010 that he checked the pitching matchups earlier than usual. Whereas he usually doesn't care which pitcher he faces, Sabathia knew two weeks ago that he was lined up to oppose Santana. He wasn't happy about it.

"It stinks because he's left-handed," said Sabathia, who does own a better lifetime average against fellow southpaws than righties, even if all of his home runs have come against right-handers. "I was hoping that I got to pitch [Saturday] or something."

Sabathia wasn't necessarily disrespecting Mets righty Mike Pelfrey, who is started on Saturday night. After all, Sabathia knocked an RBI single off Pelfrey last season at Citi Field. For what it's worth, Santana has yielded two home runs to pitchers in his career -- a two-run homer to Mike Hampton last season and a grand slam to Felix Hernandez in 2008 during an Interleague game at Shea Stadium.

Despite his prowess at the plate and the Yankees' short bench of late, Sabathia did not ask manager Joe Girardi about a potential pinch-hit appearance.

"I've never done that because I know the answer," Sabathia said.

-- Tim Britton

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