Despite results, CC 'light years' ahead of last spring

Sabathia works on cutter, finds bright spots in three-run, three-inning outing

Despite results, CC 'light years' ahead of last spring

VIERA, Fla. -- CC Sabathia offered a blunt assessment of his performance after a rocky three innings against the Nationals on Tuesday at Space Coast Stadium.

"I [stunk] today," Sabathia said.

The left-hander, making his second start of the spring, was having trouble with his delivery, flying open and leaving the ball up. He gave up three earned runs on four hits, walking two and striking out three, while throwing 37 of 62 pitches for strikes. His fastball velocity continued to lag, topping out in the high 80s.

But it wasn't all bad, as Sabathia described himself as "light years" ahead of where he was at this time a year ago. He also is continuing to work on his new pitch, a cutter, estimating he threw eight or nine, none of which were put in play. Former Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte has helped Sabathia develop the pitch, which he hopes will allow him to throw inside to right-handed batters.

"It's tough, but as long as I keep it in perspective and don't try to overthrow it, it'll be a good pitch for me," Sabathia said. "I don't know if it's going to come right away or be something that takes me a whole season. When I first started throwing my slider, I was able to pick it up right away and took it right into a game, so we'll see."

Although it's a difficult pitch to throw, Sabathia plans to stick with it. On Tuesday, catcher Brian McCann already could see it working.

"He got it in there, got some foul balls on it," McCann said. "It'll help him command both sides of the plate."

Sabathia also has noticed that his slider has gotten tighter since he began throwing the cutter. Although he hung one that Anthony Rendon ripped for a two-run double in the second inning, he also used the slider effectively in several other instances, including a strikeout of Ian Desmond in the first.

As for the diminished velocity, manager Joe Girardi insisted that he is not concerned. Command and deception are more important, in his opinion.

"I don't get so caught up in it," Girardi said. "I know it was a big issue last year, and I think it probably led to some of his issues on the mound where he probably was trying to overthrow. The bottom line is outs and swings. What types of swings are they getting?"

Andrew Simon is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.