CC takes big step with successful 'pen session

1B battle between Bird, Voit off to strong start; Ellsbury working out in Phoenix

March 2nd, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- enjoyed a successful return to the mound on Friday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field, tossing 16 pitches in a bullpen workout as he attempts to bounce back from offseason surgery on his right knee and an angioplasty performed in December.

"I'm sure I will be nervous when I get out there on the mound again, but today was exciting to finally get off the mound and feel great," Sabathia said. "Just a good day."

Sabathia, who turns 39 in July, has announced that this will be his final Major League season. The Yankees are proceeding cautiously with the veteran left-hander given the serious nature of his recent health scare, but manager Aaron Boone said that it remains "a realistic expectation" that Sabathia can be ready to pitch big league games in April.

"I thought it was another good step for him," Boone said of the session, during which Sabathia threw to catcher Kyle Higashioka. "He threw the ball fine; worked in his cutter, two-seamer, changeup. All in all, a good first day. He threw the ball well."

Sabathia is scheduled to throw again on Sunday. Boone said that Sabathia must now complete a few more bullpen sessions before graduating to pitching batting practice, estimating that Sabathia could appear in a Grapefruit League game within the next two weeks.

"After I got the clearance from the doctor to start working out, I started working out pretty heavy," Sabathia said. "So I knew coming down here I would feel good. I felt fine playing catch, getting on the mound the other day felt great and today, so I'll just keep progressing. I feel great."

Sabathia did not give any thought to the fact that the session represented the beginning of his final Spring Training.

"Nah. My mind doesn't really work like that," he said. "I guess I will think about it when I'm done and reminisce. I'm just in it. I'm just trying to get ready."

If at first ...

and are off to strong starts as they battle for the starting first-base job, and though it has been suggested that the runner-up could begin his year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Boone can envision a scenario in which both players appear on the Opening Day roster.

"A lot can happen between now and then,” Boone said. “Both guys look really well, had really good offseasons. Both guys are, no doubt in my mind, impact big league players. We're not even close to making those kinds of final decisions. We want to see camp unfold."

Ellsbury out West

While the Yankees have been working out in the Florida sunshine, outfielder has spent his days at the Exos Athletes' Performance Institute in Phoenix, his arrival delayed by plantar fasciitis.

Boone said that Ellsbury has resumed running on flat ground and may be ready to join his teammates within a week or two, though he is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day.

"His work is going well," Boone said. "We're probably getting to a point where we have to make a decision to continue it there or if we deem he's ready for baseball activities, then he'll be going out here."

Back behind the plate

Gary Sanchez donned catching gear in a game for the first time since a November surgical procedure on his left shoulder, working with left-hander for four innings. He went 0-for-2, striking out and lining out. 

"I felt normal, like a typical Spring Training," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "It was good to get in a game and get some at-bats, and see pitching. To get an opportunity to catch Paxton for the first time and see his pitches, catch him in a live game, I felt good."

Sanchez's next game action is scheduled to come on Sunday. 

Bombers bits

(right elbow surgery) is continuing to bounce back well in his program, and has been scheduled to see a doctor within the next 10 days, seeking clearance to begin swinging a bat and hitting off a tee with two hands. Currently, he has been swinging with only his left hand.

"Every morning he's come in feeling strong, feeling there is more in his mind that he could absolutely be doing," Boone said.

• Paxton recorded six outs in his second spring start, permitting a homer to Andrew Susac. Paxton gave up two hits with three strikeouts and a walk, tossing 26 of his 42 pitches for strikes.

"I felt like I made progress from last time," Paxton said. "My breaking stuff is still coming along. It doesn't quite feel where it needs to be, sharpness-wise. I need to do a better job of getting ahead of guys."

was electric, retiring all four Orioles he faced with three strikeouts. He threw 13 of his 15 pitches for strikes.

"He looked like midseason shape right there. Sharp as always," Sanchez said. 

Up next: is scheduled to make his first game appearance since his life-threatening ruptured aneurysm and brain hemorrhage on Saturday, when the Yankees visit the Pirates for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest in Bradenton, Fla. Farquhar will pitch in relief of starter . is set to pitch for Pittsburgh.