- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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VIERA, Fla. -- All things considered, CC Sabathia said his Tuesday at the ballpark was more fun than his Monday at the theme park.
"I spent 12 hours walking around Disney yesterday," Sabathia said. "This was more fun."
That was in spite of the fact the Yankees' ace left-hander had problems throwing strikes in the first inning, got tagged for a two-run double in the second and needed 61 pitches to get through three innings against the Washington Nationals, in which he allowed three runs on four hits and a pair of walks.
Asked what he could take away from his second start of the spring, Sabathia said, "That I sucked. We can leave it here in Vero or Viera or wherever we are and just go on to the next one.”
That will be in Panama on Sunday when the Yankees travel to Rod Carew Stadium for a two-game Legends Series against the Miami Marlins in honor of Mariano Rivera, the most famous pro athlete to come out of Panama since the retirement of Roberto Duran.
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"I think it will be fun, getting a chance to pitch over there," Sabathia said. "I'm excited to see Mo. I’ve been there before, and I know how much they love baseball. I think it will be a fun trip.”
It has to be more enjoyable than Sabathia's day on Tuesday, in which he walked the leadoff hitter in his first two innings and allowed a leadoff single in the third, missing repeatedly up and away with his pitches before correcting himself in the third.
"I was kind of erratic, like all over the place," Sabathia said. "I couldn’t get my delivery down, and try to push off, try to get some leverage throwing downhill, it was just hard for me. I don’t know if I was just jumping off the mound, leaving too early. From my point of view, I just felt like I was rushing."
On the positive side, Sabathia said he was happy with his newly unveiled cutter, which he is developing as an alternative to his four-seam fastball, a pitch that has lost significant velocity over the past three seasons.
Sabathia said he threw the cutter eight or nine times and was pleased the Nationals never put it into play.
"They either yanked it foul, or they just ticked it," he said. "I’m not going to give up on it. I’m definitely going to keep using it and keep going."
Sabathia has been encouraged in the use of the cutter by Andy Pettitte, another Yankees lefty who had to make adjustments to compensate for a lack of velocity later in his career.
"That’s something me and Andy talked about, not getting frustrated with it, because it is a tough pitch to throw," he said. "So I’m going to stick with it.
"I’m sure he’s going to call me after this game, and we just talk about it. It’s a huge plus for me."
Sabathia also said he has noticed an improvement in his slider since incorporating the cutter.
"The slider’s been tight, tighter since I started throwing the cutter," he said. "So hopefully it makes it better. It’s never really that tight this early in the spring, so I’m excited about that."
Since there was no radar gun on display at Space Coast Stadium, it was impossible to say what Sabathia's fastball velocity was, although the gun on the MLB.TV broadcast caught him in the mid-80s, down even from his last start, when he topped out at 88.
“I don’t get so caught up in that," Joe Girardi said before the game. "I know it was a big issue last year, and I think it probably led to some of his issues on the mound where he was probably trying to overthrow. The bottom line is outs and swings. What type of swings are they getting off a guy? That’s what I look at.”
The Nationals had one very good swing off Sabathia when Anthony Rendon lined a hanging slider into the left-field corner for two second-inning runs. The other came on an infield groundout after a walk and a single gave the Nats first-inning runners at the corners.
Asked when an outing like this would start to become cause for concern, Sabathia said, "April 1. I feel good. I think I’m headed in the right direction. I promise you guys I’m light years ahead of where I was last year in spring training. I’m encouraged by that, and I feel really good."
Better even than after a day at Disney World.
4hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
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