CC: Yanks' 2017 rotation will surprise people

Left-hander gives up 3 runs, fans 5 in third spring start

CC: Yanks' 2017 rotation will surprise people

TAMPA, Fla. -- As the Yankees complete each turn through their spring rotation, CC Sabathia is growing more excited about what the regular season could hold.

Sabathia got his work in with four innings of three-run ball in the Yankees' 5-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Orioles on Saturday, and the veteran left-hander said that he has been impressed by the group of talented starters that the organization has assembled.

"I think it's going to be pretty good. I think we're going to surprise some people," Sabathia said. "I think obviously, we've got the talent in the room. It's just us putting it together, staying healthy and going out to make all our starts."

The Yanks entered the spring with three locks for five spots: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Sabathia. Luis Cessa stumbled in his most recent outing, but Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino and Adam Warren have continued to make it a tough call for the coaching staff.

Jordan Montgomery, the Yanks' No. 13 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is also scheduled to make a start on March 23 against the Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla. Girardi said that the starters all did their jobs this week.

"Pretty darned good," manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought they all threw the ball pretty well, so we want that to continue."

CC's scoreless spring debut

Unlike last spring, when Sabathia was competing with Ivan Nova for the No. 5 rotation slot, the 36-year-old does not have to be concerned with his Grapefruit League numbers. His ERA coming into Saturday's start was a bloated 13.50, which Sabathia reduced to 9.45 with a 65-pitch effort (41 strikes).

"I just think [the focus is] health-wise, the way I'm feeling, the way the ball is coming out," Sabathia said. "Bullpens, on the side, the way I'm commanding the zone. It's all been pretty good. Like I said, I just keep building off, keep going, keep going. I should be ready by April."

Sabathia held the Orioles scoreless until the fourth inning, when Pedro Alvarez rapped a two-out RBI single and Chris Johnson crushed a cutter for a long two-run homer to left. Sabathia struck out five, all on sliders.

"I'm more concerned that his stuff is right than results, and you can say that for a lot of people," Girardi said. "I thought his stuff was better today. I still don't think it's where it was at the end of the season, but you could probably say that about a lot of guys."

With his spot guaranteed and more than two weeks left on the calendar before Opening Day, Sabathia said that he must challenge himself to not become complacent.

"For me, I have to work. I can't really let up," Sabathia said. "I did that today and I gave up the double to the lefty. For me, it's just the mental battle to stay in it and keep working hard every day in the weight room, during PFP, in the bullpen and just keep taking it one day at a time."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.