CC again has those second-start blues

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi (28) takes

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi (28) takes the ball from starting pitcher CC Sabathia in the third inning after Sabathia allowed five runs on six hits in two and two-thirds innings in their spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Steinbrenner Field. (March 5, 2011) (Credit: AP)

TAMPA, Fla. - Must be something about that second outing of spring training.

What that is exactly, CC Sabathia hasn't a clue. Nor is he terribly concerned about it. And Joe Girardi feels the same way.

For the third straight season, Sabathia got lit up in his second exhibition start. He retired only seven of 15 batters in the Yankees' 10-8 loss to the Nationals Saturday at Steinbrenner Field.

"We'll reevaluate after today," Girardi joked of the lefthander's spot in the rotation suddenly being in peril.

Sabathia allowed five runs and six hits in 22/3 innings. "I was just kind of all over the place," he said. "Really couldn't find the strike zone, couldn't work off of anything. My changeup was real flat and cutting back over the plate. Just one of those days."

Sabathia has been around long enough to know that these outings are very much a part of spring training. "I'm not going to lose any sleep," he said. "A couple years ago, I probably would have taken it home with me. But I just called my wife and she started laughing, so that kind of sums it up right there."

Make no mistake, though: Sabathia, the presumed Opening Day starter March 31, wasn't pleased. The outing bothered him.

"Of course it does,'' he said. "As a competitor, you don't want to go out there and give up five runs in 22/3 innings. But what can I do but keep working and be ready to go come the 31st?"

Oddly, since he's been with the Yankees, all of Sabathia's problem outings in spring training have occurred in his second start.

"It seems to have a pattern, doesn't it?" Girardi said. "It seems to be that second start. For whatever reason, he didn't locate today."

A few months after signing a seven-year, $161-million contract with the Yankees, Sabathia earned some unflattering headlines two years ago by allowing five runs and six hits in 12/3 innings against the Tigers in Lakeland. He allowed five runs and seven hits in 21/3 innings against the Pirates last year in Tampa.

"Just one of those things," Sabathia said of his second-start woes. "I felt good and then just couldn't work off anything."

After the Pirates debacle in 2010, Sabathia immediately knew what the problem was, pointing to a mechanical issue that caused his back side to collapse, which impacted his command.

This time, though, he didn't know what the issue was.

"Not anything I can pinpoint right now," he said. "Just my arm was dragging and I wasn't getting the ball up. Kind of felt like I was pushing the ball up there instead of throwing the ball downhill."

Sabathia lost 25 pounds in the offseason, one in which he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He said the knee still feels "fine" and that he can feel a difference, in a positive way, regarding the lost weight.

"I definitely feel a little bit stronger," he said. "As far as my delivery and everything else on the mound, I feel pretty much the same."

Sabathia, who plans to go fishing Sunday with some childhood friends - they're now coaches at his alma mater, Vallejo High School in California - already is pushing the bad start to the back of his mind.

"It probably would have made SportsCenter a couple years ago, but I don't think that's a big deal anymore," he said. "It's just one of those things. I got hit around in spring."

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