TAMPA, Fla. -- It was a rough start that progressively got better.
Still, for nearly a month, CC Sabathia hasn't thought much about the elbow that gave him so much trouble last season, and he didn't Friday in his spring training debut.
Though sloppy at times, he finished strongly after allowing two first-inning runs in the Yankees' 7-3 victory over the Marlins at Steinbrenner Field. He gave up two runs, eight hits and a walk in five innings, striking out two.
"I'm over it," Sabathia said of the left elbow that had a bone spur removed in the offseason. "I was over it when I got off the mound the first time, so I'm feeling good."
That was Feb. 16, when he threw off a mound for the first time since the surgery. He admitted to feeling "nervous" beforehand about how his elbow would respond. He felt nerves Friday, too, but for reasons that had nothing to do with the elbow.
"You're always nervous going into a game a little bit. Somebody tells you they're not, they're lying," he said. "Just getting out and facing a different team, there's that nervousness, but as far as getting on a mound and my arm feeling good, I didn't have any problem with that."
Sabathia's fastball rested mostly around 90 mph -- normal, he said, for this time of year. He was happy with his changeup but unhappy with his fastball command.
One opposing team scout said "all his pitches looked good" to him.
"He did struggle to get the ball down, even a couple of changeups," the scout said. "But very good, considering."
Indeed, "good" seemed to be the word of the day.
Derek Jeter, himself coming off surgery -- in his case, for a broken left ankle -- said it was reassuring to see the ace on the mound.
"It's always good, any time you have guys coming back from injuries, to know that they feel good," said Jeter, who played shortstop for the second time and went 1-for-3. "It's good that he feels good. That's the important thing. I don't think you worry about results too much when a guy's coming back initially."
With the offseason departures of Nick Swisher, Raul Ibañez, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez, the Yankees were expected to struggle to score runs this season. And that was before Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira were lost for at least the season's first month, maybe more.
So the Yankees had better pitch well this season . . . or else. And it starts with Sabathia.
"I don't care who we have in our lineup, you can have everyone back, it's still comforting when you know he's healthy and he's able to go out there and pitch," Jeter said. "You win with pitching, and everyone knows how important CC is to our team."
Notes & quotes: Jeter got a little more action in the field in his second start at shortstop and reported no problems with his surgically repaired left ankle afterward. He expects to play again Saturday at home against the Phillies . . . Ronnier Mustelier, whose ability with the bat has the Yankees looking at him as an option at both third and in the outfield, started at third Friday and suffered contusions on both legs when he ran into the photographers' pit padding while pursuing a foul ball. He said he hoped to wake up feeling well enough to play Saturday, but Joe Girardi said he likely won't play until Tuesday . . . Girardi said outfield prospect Slade Heathcott has been out the last two days with patella tendinitis and is day-to-day. He also said Chris Stewart took a foul tip off his right shoulder Thursday but is expected to play in one of Saturday's two games.