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Sabathia throws off the mound

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP)

CC Sabathia wasn't surprised his first pitch was well inside off the plate. The important thing was the New York Yankees' ace felt good.

Sabathia threw off a mound on Saturday for the first time since arthroscopic surgery Oct. 25 to remove a bone spur from his left elbow. The left-hander made 29 pitches during Saturday's session, which was watched by several team officials including pitching coach Larry Rothschild and spring training instructor Billy Connors.

''No problems,'' Sabathia said. ''Probably didn't throw a strike, but that's normal for my first bullpen. I got a little nervous when I first got up there. Hadn't been up there. Didn't know how I was going to feel, but I immediately felt good and I felt comfortable.''

Sabathia was part of a scheduled bullpen group that included two of the pitching staff's elder statesmen: 43-year-old Mariano Rivera and 40-year-old Andy Pettitte. As Sabathia and Pettitte walked toward the main field to loosen up, Rivera already had started his bullpen workout.

''Why is Mo already throwing?'' Sabathia said with a smile.

By the end of his mound session, Sabathia's control improved and the sound of his fastball popping in the catcher's mitt got louder.

Sabathia had two trips to the disabled list last year. A strained left groin kept him out from June 24 to July 17 and an inflamed left elbow sidelined him from Aug. 8-24. The 32-year-old left-hander was 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA, his fewest regular-season wins since 2006, and 2-1 in three playoff starts.

Rivera, who had surgery last June 12 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, went through his second spring training bullpen session and then watched the others throw.

''Right on schedule,'' Rivera said. ''Perfect.''

Rivera's injury occurred while he was shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City on May 3. The career saves leader with 608, Rivera said the biggest tests will be fielding bunts and covering first base.

Sabathia and Rivera are both expected to ready for opening day.

''I'm pretty confident they're going to be OK,'' manager Joe Girardi said. ''But, I always say in the back of my head, I want to see them out there before I make that assumption. I feel good about it, just because I know where they are in their rehabs. I think they're pretty far along. They've had good winters.''

Notes: Sabathia and Rivera are to throw off mounds again on Tuesday. ... C Francisco Cervelli has decided not to play for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. ... New York's position players are scheduled to report Sunday, when Derek Jeter is to hold a start-of-spring-training news conference.

Tagged: Yankees, CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera

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