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CC Sabathia pleased with cutter but not his performance

CC Sabathia of theYankees reacts to a base

CC Sabathia of theYankees reacts to a base hit in the second inning of a game against the Washington Nationals at the Space Coast Stadium on March 11, 2014 in Viera, Fla. Credit: Getty Images / Stacy Revere

VIERA, Fla. - For the first time this spring, CC Sabathia unveiled the cutter he's been working on against another team, and the results were OK.

His overall performance in the Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Nationals Tuesday at Space Coast Stadium was not, although only Sabathia seemed to think it was rock bottom.

"I only threw a couple of good pitches out of [62]," he said after allowing three runs and four hits in three innings.

What did he take from that?

"That I [stunk] today," said the lefthander, whose fastball peaked at 91 mph, according to scouts. "Just leave it here in Vero or Viera, wherever we are, and go on to the next one."

The next one will be Sunday in Panama City, Panama, against the Marlins as part of MLB's Legend Series to pay tribute to Mariano Rivera.

Sabathia hopes to pitch better then, but Brian McCann, who caught him in a game for the first time, said the pitcher was being overly critical. "He's a competitor and he strives for greatness," McCann said. "But I thought he pitched well."

Sabathia, under the tutelage of Andy Pettitte, has been learning a cutter, and, by his estimation, threw "eight or nine" against the Nationals.

"I thought they were pretty good," he said. "None of them got put in play, so I guess that's a plus. They either yanked it foul or took it."

At the behest of pitching coach Larry Rothschild and Pettitte, Sabathia has taken on the task of adding a cutter to his arsenal. It's a conversation that started last season, when the lefthander struggled while trying to adjust to diminished velocity, going a career-worst 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA.

Sabathia believes the cutter will give him another weapon with which to attack righthanded batters, "to tie them up, try to get some early swings," he said.

Trying to incorporate a pitch during the spring is "tough," he said, but a process to which he's committed.

"I'm not going to give up on it, I'm definitely going to keep using it and keep going," he said. "That's something that me and Andy talked about, not getting frustrated with it because it is a tough pitch to throw. So I'm going to stick with it."

Pettitte worked with Sabathia on the pitch two weeks ago in the bullpen, when the recently retired lefthander was in camp as a guest instructor for a few days. The two are in constant contact.

"He's been huge, just being able to talk to him," Sabathia said. "I'm sure he's going to call me after this game and we'll just talk about it. I think that's a huge plus for me."

Joe Girardi said Sabathia's command "was a little bit off today," but otherwise thought the outing was fine. He also liked what he saw of the cutter.

"He threw a couple good ones, he threw some decent sinkers today," Girardi said. "But he was missing up and away, but that's a little mechanical thing, falling off a little bit on his balance. But that's going to happen."

While grading his outing in harsh terms, Sabathia said it's not to the point where he's worried.

When would it bother him?

"April 1," Sabathia said, the season opener against the Astros, which he's expected to start. "I feel good, I think I'm headed in the right direction. I promise you guys I'm light years ahead of where I was last year in spring training. I'm encouraged by that. I just have to keep working."

New York Sports