CC welcomes buzz of opener

CC welcomes buzz of opener

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- In CC Sabathia's mind, there is no substitute for the sensation of seeing a packed house, with all eyes upon him and the responsibilities of being an ace cradled securely in his left hand.

To that point, Spring Training couldn't be ending quickly enough. Sabathia's sixth and final Grapefruit League start didn't go smoothly, as the Braves rapped him for five runs in 4 2/3 innings at Champion Stadium on Tuesday, but Sabathia shrugged it off.

"I'm just trying to get out and feel good," Sabathia said. "The changeup was up, and I was just kind of all over the place with the two-seamer. It was one of those days, but I got my work in. I'll go work in the bullpen and try to get it corrected before Sunday."

At 8:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sabathia will be assigned the task of handling the Red Sox in Major League Baseball's season opener at Fenway Park, taking the honors of his seventh career Opening Day start and his second as a Yankee.

"I think he loves having the ball in big situations -- the challenge of it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think he enjoys it. You can just see it. He loves that competitive feeling, going out there and being in a big game, whether it was a playoff game or a game down the stretch. You could see that he really loved it."

Tuesday's workload was just practice, as Sabathia got up to 75 pitches of eight-hit ball with a walk and three strikeouts before being relieved by switch-pitcher Pat Venditte.

While noting that Sabathia's four-seam fastball must be better by Sunday as well, catcher Jorge Posada said that the left-hander will get the adrenaline he needs from the atmosphere. The one pitch Posada really wanted back against the Braves was the two-run homer that Clint Sammons deposited onto the grassy left-field berm in the fourth inning.

"The pitch selection was my fault," Posada said. "That's my mistake. I've got to be smarter than that; the kid got jammed in the first at-bat and he hit it out."

Entering what was a 19-win season, Sabathia drew the Opening Day honors for the Yankees last April 6 at Baltimore (a 10-5 loss) and also the first start at the new Yankee Stadium on April 16 (a 10-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians).

Those results might not be what Sabathia wants to put at the top of his pinstriped resume, but it all worked out in the end, as the Yankees celebrated their 27th World Series title.

"You want to do it again, and this is the first step," Sabathia said. "It's Opening Day, we open the season, so you always get a little bit of butterflies. Last year was a lot, being new to the Yankees, but you still get the Opening Day jitters.

"It's going to be exciting. It's always exciting when you're going to Boston. I'm definitely going to have to keep my emotions in check and stay calm, and throw strikes."