Sabathia throws off the mound

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.