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CC Sabathia pleased after first rehab start

CC Sabathia of theYankees pitches during the second

CC Sabathia of theYankees pitches during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 17, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Credit: Getty Images / Brian Blanco

TAMPA, Fla. - CC Sabathia pitched into the third inning in his first rehab start with the Class A Tampa Yankees on Saturday and was pleased by his progress in his first outing in seven weeks.

"It felt really good,'' said Sabathia, who likely will make several more rehab appearances before returning to the Yankees. "I didn't know what to expect. Obviously, I wanted to be healthy and not have any problems, and I got that accomplished.''

Sabathia threw 37 pitches at Steinbrenner Field, 24 for strikes, and left after a one-out single in the third. He gave up two runs and two hits in the second inning, but both went off fielders' gloves.

A scout at the game said Sabathia's fastball sat in the range of 87 to 89 mph and touched 90. He said Sabathia's stuff basically "looks like spring training.''

The 33-year-old lefthander opened the game by getting Dunedin leadoff batter Dwight Smith Jr. -- son of the former Cub and Brave -- on a called third strike and finished the inning with a swinging strikeout. He opened the second inning with a four-pitch walk, then gave up the two hits before a groundout ended the inning.

"I definitely need to work on my secondary pitches, but I couldn't be happier with the way I felt physically out there,'' Sabathia said.

Sabathia, who threw two innings in a simulated game in Tampa on Tuesday, was 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA when he went on the disabled list May 11 with inflammation in his right knee. He did not know where he will make his second rehab start, but Tampa has a home game Thursday, so that could be a match.

"You just keep progressing, hopefully get back on the big-league mound soon,'' said Sabathia, who tested his knee covering first base on one play.

Sabathia said he hasn't had any setbacks or pain in recent weeks and has thrown "full-tilt'' in batting practice. He credited his offseason weight loss -- he's between 285 and 290 pounds after weighing as much as 320, he said -- with helping in his knee recovery. He had been slated for 40 to 45 pitches but was pleased with his 37.

"It felt like it's been a long time since I've been out there,'' he said. "It feels good to be back out there competing, and hopefully I can get back in the big leagues pretty quick.''

Sabathia's appearance in Tampa coincided with another imposing figure. It was Star Wars Night for the Tampa Yankees, and Darth Vader threw the ceremonial first pitch.

"Awesome,'' Sabathia said. "I was Darth Vader for Halloween a couple of years ago. His costume was pretty legit.''

With Erik Boland

New York Sports