TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia is likely to head into the regular season having made just three spring training starts, and probably won't even make the first one until March 15, just 17 days before Opening Day.
Sabathia threw 46 pitches in what Yankees manager Joe Girardi called a live batting practice Thursday morning at Steinbrenner Field, and is penciled in to throw a simulated game on March 5. After that, his next possible start would come on March 10, but Girardi said he probably would hold Sabathia out of that because he does not want him to face the AL East rival Toronto Blue Jays.
Instead, Girardi said Sabathia likely would throw another simulated game in which he pitches to some teammates under virtual game conditions while sitting down between throwing sessions as if waiting for his own team to hit.
"I consider a simulated game almost a game," Girardi said. "For me, he's really throwing games in a sense. I count those as innings."
Girardi has been unusually cautious this spring with his starting pitchers, none of whom has started any of the Yankees' first seven exhibition games. Part of the reason is the unusual length of spring training this year because of the World Baseball Classic, and part of the reason is because of concerns about the condition of the Yankees' starting staff. Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees' No. 2 starter, is 38 and Andy Pettitte, the No. 3, will turn 41 in June.
Kuroda will be the first member of the Yankees' projected rotation to start a game when he gets the ball for Friday's game against the Phillies. There is no date for Pettitte to start but he will throw a simulated game on March 3.
Sabathia, 32, is coming off arthroscopic surgery in which a bone spur was removed from his pitching elbow. Sabathia has averaged five starts and 18 innings pitched in each of his previous four spring trainings as a Yankee.
Girardi said Sabathia's abbreviated schedule would not compromise his conditioning nor affect his preparation to start the Yankees' regular season on April 1 against the Boston Red Sox in the Bronx.
"I think CC knows how to get prepared," he said.
Sabathia's throwing session on Thursday consisted of two sections, the first 21 pitches and the second 25, to Kyle Roller, Addison Maruszak and Ronnier Mustelier. Afterward, Sabathia declared himself pain-free.
"I'm excited that I don't have that little pain in there anymore and just getting used to not dealing with it," Sabathia said. "When it's there, you kind of compensate for it a little bit and try not to feel it. Now I can get back to throwing with my normal throwing motion and not feeling that little pain."
Sabathia, 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA in 2012, went on the disabled list twice last season with soreness in his triceps and a groin pull. Earlier this spring, he revealed that he pitched through pain for much of 2012, which may have contributed to his declining effectiveness over the second half of the season.
"I'm definitely getting fired up to pitch in a spring training game," Sabathia said. "I'm a long way from being ready to pitch in the season, though. But I feel good, my arm's feeling good, arm slot is good. I haven't had any problems or any setbacks, so I'm excited."