TAMPA, Fla. - CC Sabathia threw 20 pitches in a simulated game Thursday morning, then said he feels pain-free and is ready to pitch in an exhibition game if the team asks him.

"Felt good. No problems," Sabathia said after the session, which took place at Steinbrenner Field. "I guess the next step, I don't know if it's going to be a game or one more practice. I guess you have to talk to Larry [Rothschild]. I'm on their schedule, so whatever we come up with, I'm good with."

Speaking after the Yankees' 2-1 victory over the Pirates in Bradenton, Joe Girardi said that next time out, Sabathia either will make his exhibition debut or pitch another simulated game.

Sabathia, 34, was limited to eight starts last season before undergoing season-ending knee surgery in late July. He wore a protective sleeve on the knee but said it hasn't limited his usual progress at the start of spring training.

"This is about where I'm usually at. It's exciting to be out there pain-free, not feeling anything," he said. "I'm just looking forward to the next step."

Sabathia was one of four pitchers who threw simulated games Thursday morning, joined by Michael Pineda, Dellin Betances and Jared Burton.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I heard CC threw well, Pineda threw well, Betances threw well, they all threw well," Girardi said. "Larry was encouraged by everything he saw today."

With Erik Boland

in Bradenton, Florida