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Halladay vs. Sabathia is big, even on March 4

CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees

CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies. (March 4, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

CLEARWATER, Fla. - It was, everyone kept stressing before and after, just a spring training game.

Regardless, CC Sabathia vs. Roy Halladay creates headlines anytime, even on March 4, when the former Cy Young Award winners were scheduled to pitch two innings each.

All would sign up for another head-to-head in late October or early November.

"It's kind of interesting. It's getting a lot of coverage like it's a regular-season game, but we know what they're both capable of doing," manager Joe Girardi said before the Phillies' 3-2 victory. "I'm interested to watch Roy, how he goes about his business in his first start. Is he going to use everything he's got or is he going to work on one or two pitches more?"

Halladay worked on all of his pitches, though there weren't many of them; he allowed no hits and just one baserunner, thanks to a first-inning error.

Otherwise, the most celebrated newcomer of the offseason - the Phillies acquired Halladay from the Blue Jays in a three-team trade in which Phils postseason star Cliff Lee was sent to the Mariners - easily set down the Yankees, as 21 of his 25 pitches were strikes.

The Yankees did send out a lineup that was missing Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and had Jorge Posada batting third and Robinson Cano batting cleanup. Then again, Halladay went 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in five starts against them last year.

"He hasn't changed much, that's for sure," Girardi said.

Sabathia put it another way.

"He's filthy," he said. "He was dealing today, too."

Sabathia wasn't as sharp, though he pitched two scoreless innings, giving up two hits and two walks. "I threw all my pitches," he said. "Went well, I guess, for my first one out."

He wasn't happy with his delivery, which he called "so-so."

"I had a couple of times where I fell off the mound and wasn't headed toward the plate," Sabathia said. "That's why you saw changeups in the other batter's box, so that will be something I'll work on in my bullpen coming up and try to get it a lot better headed toward the start of the season."

Asked about the matchup earlier in the week, Sabathia had said he would spend most of his time in the dugout "eating seeds and goofing off" while Halladay was on the mound.

Speaking after the game, he seemed amused by the media's preoccupation with an exhibition game. Even if it had been a regular-season game, Sabathia said, although it's always a welcome challenge to battle another ace, it isn't quite one-on-one.

"Like I always say, I'm facing a lineup," Sabathia said. "If I was facing him [as a batter], I'd probably pay more attention. But it's fun to go up there against those guys."

The Phillies traded for Halladay but had to give up Lee. Girardi called Halladay "great" several times but hedged when asked how much better he will make the two-time defending National League champions, favored by many to make it three straight NL titles this season.

"It's interesting. They basically traded a top-end starter for another top-end starter, in a sense," Girardi said. "We didn't have a lot of success off of either one of those guys, so I don't know . . . They traded one great pitcher for another."

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