TAMPA, Fla. -- Had this Grapefruit League matchup between Carsten Sabathia and Jose Cabrera taken place 10 or 15 years earlier, sequences would never have been part of the equation. At that time, the big left-hander probably would rear back and fire his best fastball or slider over the plate, a dare with seams.
Sabathia chuckles when he considers that youthful bravado, swearing that he doesn't miss blowing high-octane heat by the game's best. Having worked four innings of one-run, four-hit ball in Tuesday's 2-2 tie against the Tigers, Sabathia is savoring his late-career cerebral approach.
"It's just figuring out, facing Miguel Cabrera, after I got him out with a changeup the first time," Sabathia said. "Trying to figure out how to get him out the next time. Obviously he's a good hitter and you can't throw the same pitches a bunch of times. You've got to figure out sequences and a way to get him out."
In their first-inning matchup, Sabathia threw seven pitches to Cabrera before floating an 84-mph changeup that was pounded to shortstop Didi Gregorius for a groundout. When Detroit's order cycled back around in the third, Sabathia fell behind Cabrera 2-0, then fired a pair of high-80s fastballs before getting Cabrera to ground an 88-mph slider to second baseman Gleyber Torres.
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"I think you're always still learning and trying to figure things out, but I feel pretty comfortable with the stuff that I have -- the cutter, the two-seamer, backdoor slider and changeup," Sabathia said. "There's always stuff to work on."
On the Yankees' bench, manager Aaron Boone said that he spoke with bench coach Josh Bard during the outing, marveling about their former Indians teammate's tempo, command of his body and the ability to repeat his delivery.
"It's been fun to watch," Boone said. "A couple of years ago in my old [broadcasting] job, that was the question, could he make that transition? You don't know until you see it. There's no question he has made that transition, and I think you're seeing him now really comfortable.
"He's a great athlete. For being such a big guy, he's so repeatable with his delivery that I just think he's gotten now really comfortable with how to pitch with the stuff he has. He sequences really good. He repeats his delivery so well. It allows him to throw any pitch at any time for a strike. It's been neat to see him make this transition."
Sabathia said that he expects to make two more starts before the regular season. Boone said that it is "a pretty safe bet" that Sabathia will pitch one of the Yanks' first four games against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
Boone said that he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild have had conversations in recent days regarding the Yankees' Opening Day starter, but no decision has been finalized. Though Luis Severino appears to be a front-runner to draw that March 29 assignment, Boone indicated that his selection was not a lock.
"We're a little bit unique in that it's not so obvious with our team," Boone said. "With some clubs, I think there's a clear guy that you would go to. Sevy, third in the Cy Young, looks like a budding ace in our league. You could make a case to throw him out there. [Masahiro] Tanaka has been a big game guy and been in that role before. CC has been in that role. We've even seen Sonny Gray be elite in the postseason. I think we're a little more interchangeable probably than most clubs."
A perfect day
Don Larsen was on hand for Tuesday's game at Steinbrenner Field. The author of the only perfect game in World Series history, the 88-year-old Larsen received a standing ovation when introduced to the crowd of 9,969.
Aaron Judge has agreed to a split contract in which the American League Rookie of the Year will earn $622,300 in the Majors this year, according to The Associated Press. In the unlikely event that Judge is sent back to the Minors, his salary would drop to $272,250.
The Yankees utilize a scale based on service time for players who are not eligible for arbitration. Judge is not eligible until after the 2019 season. Others agreeing to split contracts include Christopher Austin ($558,600/$230,814), Greg Bird ($582,000/$272,500), Jordan Montgomery ($580,450/$228,413) and Luis Severino ($604,975/$275,488), according to the AP.
Judge will be part of the travel roster on Wednesday as the Yankees visit the Orioles for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest in Sarasota, Fla. Bird, Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade are also among those making the trip. Chance Adams starts for New York, opposite Miguel Castro for Baltimore. Fans can watch all the action live on MLB.TV or MLB Network.