CC Sabathia hopes to build on his strong finish

CC Sabathia works out at Yankee Stadium. (Oct.

CC Sabathia works out at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 5, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

BALTIMORE -- Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano were walking to the indoor batting cage at Camden Yards Saturday night when A-Rod asked a reporter, "Hey, who's starting?"

He meant for the Orioles, who had just announced righthander Jason Hammel as their starting pitcher for Sunday night's Game 1 of the ALDS.

Because Baltimore had to play in the first AL wild-card playoff game Friday night, Buck Showalter waited to determine his rotation for the ALDS. It's Hammel, lefthander Wei-Yin Chen and righthander Miguel Gonzalez for the first three games.

The identity of the Yankees' Game 1 starter has been known for some time. It is CC Sabathia, who will be trying to build on his strong finish to the regular season and erase the memory of his less-than-stellar work against the Orioles this season and Detroit in the 2011 ALDS.

Sabathia finished the season 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA. He was superb in his last three starts, going eight innings each time, allowing a total of four earned runs and striking out 28.

"I just felt like my command was a lot better," Sabathia said. "I don't think I had that much change in my velocity. Just being able to command the ball is huge for me. During the season it was pretty good, but I just think I've been throwing strikes, and that's just been the biggest thing for me, just consistently going out there and keeping my delivery and throwing strikes."

Sabathia was 0-2 with a 6.38 ERA against the Orioles in three starts. J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds and Matt Wieters were a combined 14-for-28 (.500) with three home runs and eight RBIs against Sabathia in those games.

"They have a great lineup, and I've faced these guys a lot, and they know what I am trying to do," Sabathia said. "It's just up to me to go out and execute pitches and make sure I keep the ball down and get the ball in where I need to."

Reynolds, who hit seven of his 23 homers against the Yankees this season, said of Sabathia: "He's going to try to feed off our aggressiveness. We're an aggressive, free-swinging team. He's probably going to throw off-speed against us, try to get us to chase his pitch. We've got to be patient and get our pitch that we want to hit. He's always around the zone; he's a strike-thrower. We've just got to make sure the strikes we swing at are quality pitches to hit."

Sabathia said he is not looking for redemption after pitching to a 6.23 ERA in three outings in last year's ALDS against the Tigers.

"It's been a whole year," he said. "I've pitched a whole season since then. I've got more things to worry about than how I pitched against Detroit last year. I don't take that into [Sunday night], I take the last three or four starts, five starts that I've had, and just try to build off that."

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