ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — For all the talk about a Yankees youth movement, there were a couple of old, familiar faces who keyed New York’s first victory.
CC Sabathia was sharp in his season debut and Chase Headley kept up his hot start in Tuesday night’s 5-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The 36-year-old Sabathia, beginning his 17th major league season and the final year of his Yankees contract, limited the team he has faced more than any other to three singles and a pair of walks in five innings.
Headley homered off Jake Odorizzi (0-1) in the sixth inning and added an RBI single through the vacated shortstop hole of a shifted infield in the eighth , making him 5 for 8 in two games. The 32-year-old third baseman started in a lengthy slump last year and did not get his first extra-base hit until May 12.
“It feels a heck of a lot better than it did for a month and a half last year, but there’s a long ways to go,” said Headley, who joined Ronald Torreyes in going deep against Odorizzi. “Obviously, getting a couple hits early on, it kind of takes the pressure off.”
Five relievers finished the five-hitter. Dellin Betances retired Logan Morrison on a bases-loaded grounder that ended the eighth inning and Aroldis Chapman, back with the Yankees after agreeing to an $86 million, five-year contract, threw a perfect ninth.
Traded to the Chicago Cubs by New York last July, Chapman reached 100 mph on four of 14 pitches, including his last, when Daniel Robertson struck out as his bat went flying toward the third-base dugout and into the seats.
“You always want to get that first win of the season,” Sabathia said. “This is a young team, a talented team, so it’s just going out and playing well.”
Most of the offense was supplied by the bottom of the batting order. The 5-foot-8 Torreyes, in the lineup because of a shoulder injury to Didi Gregorius and batting ninth, hit New York’s first home run this season, a two-run drive off Jake Odorizzi (0-1) in the third that drove in 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge. Torreyes had to reach for a double high-five after crossing the plate.
Matt Holliday drove in his first run as a Yankee with a third-inning double on a high fly that Peter Bourjos lost track of and dropped by the left-field corner.
“It was up into the rafters, probably higher than any ball I’ve ever seen hit here,” Bourjos said.
Sabathia joined Herb Pennock, Frank Tanana, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Kenny Rogers, Mike Flanagan, Lefty Grove and David Wells as the only left-handers in AL history to make at least one start in 17 different seasons.
“He gave up what we needed after losing the first game — just shut them down and gave us a chance to build a lead,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
In his 42nd start against the Rays, Sabathia gave up a first-inning single to Evan Longoria and infield hits to Tim Beckham in the fourth and Steven Souza Jr. in the fifth.
“You look at what Sabathia did; he was moving the ball and had everything working,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “There wasn’t a pitch that he didn’t have or a sequence that we could adjust to. He kept a lot of guys off balance.”
Yankees: Girardi said Gregorius, expected to be out until sometime in May due to a right shoulder strain, has started a throwing program.
Rays: OF Colby Rasmus, on the 10-day DL while recovering from hip surgery, did agility drills and ran the bases. He’s expected to begin a rehab assignment at Class A Port Charlotte on Thursday.
Cash shuffled his lineup for the second game of the season, with Bourjos, 1B Rickie Weeks Jr. and the rookie Robertson, who started at DH before moving to SS, making their Rays debuts. Relievers Jumbo Diaz and Tommy Hunter also made their initial appearances for the team. Three others — C Derek Norris, LF Mallex Smith and RHP Austin Pruitt — made their debuts on Sunday.
Yankees minor league pitching instructor Nardi Contreras is retiring after 49 years in pro baseball. He appeared in eight games with the Chicago White Sox in 1980, and spent seven seasons as a major league pitching coach with the White Sox, Yankees and Seattle.
RHP Chad Green and LHP Jordan Montgomery, two of the contenders for the Yankees’ fifth starter spot, will pitch Thursday night for Class A Tampa because of inclement weather forecast for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. New York doesn’t need a fifth starter until April 16.
Yankees: In Wednesday night’s series finale, RHP Michael Pineda will look to stop a career-high, 10-start winless streak dating to a victory over Cleveland on Aug. 5.
Rays: RHP Alex Cobb will go against Pineda. He struggled in five September starts last year, going 1-2 with an 8.59 ERA, following his return from Tommy John surgery that sidelined much of the past two seasons.