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Respect between CC, Pettitte a two-way street

MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- It has been four years since they shared a clubhouse as teammates, but CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte have maintained regular communication at odd hours, bouncing calls and text messages from Houston to whatever city the Yankees happen to be in.

Sabathia fired two scoreless innings in the Yankees' 7-6, 10-inning victory over the Rays on Tuesday. As a left-handed starter working with diminished velocity, Sabathia has tabbed a valued resource in Pettitte, who has helped the hurler refine a cutter over the last 2 1/2 years.

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TAMPA, Fla. -- It has been four years since they shared a clubhouse as teammates, but CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte have maintained regular communication at odd hours, bouncing calls and text messages from Houston to whatever city the Yankees happen to be in.

Sabathia fired two scoreless innings in the Yankees' 7-6, 10-inning victory over the Rays on Tuesday. As a left-handed starter working with diminished velocity, Sabathia has tabbed a valued resource in Pettitte, who has helped the hurler refine a cutter over the last 2 1/2 years.

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"My style of pitching now is close to where his was at the end of his career, so we have a lot to talk about," Sabathia said. "It's a lot of fun to be able to bounce stuff off a Hall of Famer, to have a really close relationship where I can call him any time of the night and he'll answer and talk me through my problems."

While Sabathia prematurely inducted the 254-game winner into Cooperstown (Pettitte will appear on the ballot later this year), Pettitte said that he took joy in Sabathia's positive results last season. Despite a 9-12 record, Sabathia posted a 3.91 ERA -- his lowest since 2012 (3.38) -- and allowed three earned runs or fewer in 21 of 30 starts.

Video: Pettitte loves going to Yankees camp in Tampa, Fla.

"Boy, I know he feels good about things," Pettitte said. "I know he's feeling good and he's very confident. When you have the stuff that he had and was a power pitcher like he was, throwing in the mid-to-upper 90s, it was a big adjustment for him to almost learn how to pitch again."

The addition of the cutter, a weapon against right-handed batters, has been key. According to FanGraphs, Sabathia threw it 29.3 percent of the time last year, also leaning heavily on his sinker and slider while mixing in the occasional changeup.

That represents a notable departure from just four years ago, when Sabathia was banking on his four-seam fastball and slider to get through starts.

"I think it's just necessary," Sabathia said. "You always evolve in this game and as I've gotten older, I started using more pitches in different sequences. It's kind of turned into this."

Sabathia has said that he plans to continue pitching beyond this season, and Pettitte believes that his friend has many more quality innings ahead.

"I've told y'all, the results weren't there a couple of years ago, but all his pitches are better than mine," Pettitte said. "His changeup was better than mine. If he can figure this cutter out, there's no way he can't have success. I'm just proud of him. He's been through an awful lot. He's worked extremely hard and I hope he has a great year."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees