Weight loss lifts Sabathia's stamina

New York Yankees CC Sabathia and Sergio Mitre

New York Yankees CC Sabathia and Sergio Mitre chat in the bullpen at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Feb. 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

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TAMPA, Fla. - CC Sabathia said he already has experienced one benefit from his offseason weight loss.

"I have a little more stamina, especially coming out of the bullpen and going straight to the mound," he said yesterday morning after throwing live batting practice. "I feel good."

Sabathia, who lost 25 pounds and weighed in at 290 on report day, said not getting fatigued has helped in his mechanics.

"I just don't get tired," he said. "Early in spring training in years past, I would get a little gassed in my bullpens and I would suffer from it 30, 40 pitches in. [Now] I'm able to just keep my mechanics together and work on stuff that I need to work on."

Sabathia, who will make his first exhibition start Monday in Lakeland against the Tigers, said his stuff hasn't been affected one way or the other. "It shouldn't take me as long to get ready because my bullpens are a lot better," he said. "I can stay tall and keep throwing the ball downhill and not get tired."

It bears repeating that the Yankees did not order Sabathia to lose weight. After all, he has been among baseball's most durable pitchers, surpassing 200 innings each of the last four seasons and never failing to pitch at least 180 in his 10-year career.

The decision to drop some weight came from discussions he had last season with the team's strength and conditioning coordinator, Dana Cavalea. The surgery Sabathia had to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee - he said it is 100 percent - immediately after the season brought the point home even more emphatically.

"It was the knee and me just getting older and me not feeling the way I did when I was 25," he said. "So a combination of both of those things . . . was the reason why I tried to lose the weight."

Russell Martin caught Sabathia in the bullpen and then during batting practice. "He's got a nasty two-seamer," Martin said. "He's good, man. He stays down, threw nice. He's got a good changeup, he's got good command of his offspeed pitches, works both sides of the plate really well. He's going to be fun to catch this year."

Sabathia made headlines the first day of camp by saying forgoing Cap'n Crunch played a role in his losing weight. But the reality is Cavalea's intense cardio program - two sessions a day on the exercise bike or the treadmill - was most significant.

In the sessions, Sabathia said he would get his heart rate up to 175-180, then bring it back down to 120-130, and do that eight times. He said the cardio program will be altered once the season starts.

"Dana's got some things that we talked about, doing some different things," he said. "It probably won't be as intense, but the days after I pitch, it will be pretty good, just tapering off leading up until the day that I pitch."

Sabathia said the plan is to maintain his current weight but added that it will "fluctuate up and down" a few pounds here and there in the regular season.

He laughed. "It depends on what cities we go to," he said.

The "danger" cities when it comes to food? Said Sabathia, "Kansas City and Chicago."

The group of reporters at his locker nodded knowingly.

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