TAMPA, Fla. -- Hiroki Kuroda was the Yankees' best pitcher for most of last season, but he was able to fly under the radar on Saturday, coming out of the bullpen in the third inning and overshadowed by the spring debuts of CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka.
"I don't get to relieve much, so today was quite an experience for me," said Kuroda, who pitched the third and fourth innings of New York's 4-0 win over the Phillies. "And to have Tanaka follow me, it was an overall good day."
Kuroda turned in arguably the sharpest outing of those three pitchers, limiting Philadelphia to a single with two strikeouts. He threw 11 of 17 pitches for strikes, and said that his sinker and two-seamers were working well.
The outing was so efficient, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, that they had to send Kuroda to finish up with more pitches in the bullpen so he would reach his prescribed count of 35.
"From the hitters' reactions, I could tell that the ball was moving well," Kuroda said.
Kuroda said that he could not recall his first spring outing with the Dodgers seven years ago, but it's safe to say it was less hyped than Tanaka's debut. Kuroda said that he had been impressed by Tanaka.
"The biggest thing was he looked calm up there, and the command was there. So he looked good," Kuroda said.
Diminished velocity doesn't concern CC or Girardi
TAMPA, Fla. -- CC Sabathia has grown tired of discussing the diminished velocity of his fastball, so the Yankees left-hander shrugged when he was informed that it had topped out at 88 mph in his first start of the spring.
"My fastball is what it is. If it gets better, it will," Sabathia said. "If it's not, it won't. I can pitch. I'm fine. As long as I'm healthy, I'll be good."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that any chatter about Sabathia's velocity does not concern him.
"I don't make much of it," Girardi said. "That was something people wanted to make a ton about last year, and I'm not going to make much of it. To me, if he's downhill and locating, I don't care what his velocity is. He's going to get people out."
Sabathia looked solid as he faced the Phillies for two scoreless innings in Saturday's 4-0 win at George M. Steinbrenner Field, scattering two hits with a strikeout. Sabathia threw 16 of 24 pitches for strikes.
"I thought he looked good," Girardi said. "I loved the downhill plane. His location today, I thought, was really good."
In a conversation with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Sabathia said that his first outing of the spring felt a lot like his final spring start of 2013, when he was trying to work back from left elbow surgery.
"I'm definitely ahead of where I was last year, so I feel good," Sabathia said. "I'm going to keep working, keep going out there trying to get better."
Girardi said that he saw Sabathia make some late-season mechanical adjustments last year, which have carried into his early work this spring. Sabathia said that he already feels like he has more arm strength. He wants to work on throwing strikes and being around the plate, staying behind his fastball and not allowing it to cut.
"I threw a lot of fastballs last year in the dirt," Sabathia said. "It was just about getting my release point back and getting a good feel. I was able to do that with a football, throwing a football, and then carry that over to the baseball this year in the offseason throwing program, so I feel good."
Flu delays Soriano's first Grapefruit appearance
TAMPA, Fla. -- Alfonso Soriano's spring debut is on hold. The veteran had been scheduled to play on Sunday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., but he is not completely over a battle with the flu.
"We don't feel like he's quite at full strength, and we don't want to run him out there," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Soriano has missed the first five games of the spring and was also held out of workouts early in camp. He was seen by a doctor on Saturday to update his medication, and told reporters that his energy is at about "80 percent."
Derek Jeter went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored on Saturday, and Girardi joked that he "had to do a lot of things to get him under the radar." Jeter also played flawlessly in the field, including turning a double play where he had to tag Cesar Hernandez on the bases and then throw to first.
"I thought that was a big play," Girardi said. "It shows me that his mobility is there. He's not favoring anything, not wincing. He just did what he had to do."