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CC Sabathia says this spring training debut is different

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia looks on against the Los Angeles Angels in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, June 7, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

TAMPA, Fla. — CC Sabathia has made plenty of these spring training debuts, but admits this one will feel a little bit different.

“First time out there in a long time,” Sabathia said Monday, the night before he’s scheduled to take the mound in Jupiter against the Marlins. “I’m excited to see what happens.”

Plenty has happened to Sabathia since the last time he was on the mound in a competitive situation. The 35-year-old lefthander, after a terrific September, shocked much of the baseball world, including the Yankees, by admitting himself to a 30-day alcohol rehabilitation program on the eve of the Yankees’ AL wild-card game loss to the Astros.

After the leaving the program in early November, it has been all about getting ready for 2016 and Sabathia has never felt better.

“We’ve been down here 2 1⁄2, three weeks and I haven’t had a problem,” he said. “I’ve been able to do everything. Running outside . . . everything. And I haven’t been able to do that in a lot of years, so it feels good.”

Sabathia went 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA last season, but finished strong, going 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his final five starts. He has credited the light and flexible brace he wore on the right knee during that stretch, a knee that had given him so much difficulty for three straight years.

“That’s not even in my mind,” Sabathia said.

Joe Girardi said he was “anxious” to see Sabathia pitch, though it’s more an excited anticipation than concern about the knee.

“I’ve watched him with his brace in his bullpens and live BPs and I’ve never seen him cringe, I don’t see his leg collapse,” Girardi said. “I feel at ease with that. I feel so much better now that he’s wearing it.”

Gardy in the swing

LF Brett Gardner, limited because of a bone bruise in his left wrist, took batting practice outdoors for the first time. Gardner took two rounds of BP instead of the usual four but Girardi reported the outfielder “felt good.”

Extra bases

Non-roster invitee Pete Kozma, in competition for a utility infielder spot, took batting practice for the first time. He had been sidelined with a herniated disc . . . Masahiro Tanaka felt fine a day after making his debut Sunday and is next scheduled to start Friday.

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