CC Sabathia’s frustration was tough to contain last season as he slogged through a 14-13 record and a career-worst 4.78 ERA.
Sabathia is trying to contain his anger this year as he evolves into a pitcher who has gone from throwing hard to throwing precisely.
So far the results have been mixed. One of the worst days Sabathia has had in five-plus seasons as a Yankee came Sunday as he was pounded for five runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings during a 5-1 loss to the Rays.
“I’m frustrated,” Sabathia said. “I didn’t have it today. I didn’t get a good feel for the changeup and the fastball was all over the place.”
When he walked off the mound to some boos from the 41,122 fans, Sabathia had an ERA of 5.75. Among qualifiers, that is fourth-worst behind Kevin Correia (6.09), Danny Salazar (5.93) and Ricky Nolasco (5.82).
“I’d have booed myself,” Sabathia said. “I’m just as tough [on myself as the fans]. I wouldn’t want to come to the ballpark and watch that.”
Reigning AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers turned a changeup on a 2-2 count into a game-changing inside-the-park home run. Myers has a brief history of big hits against Sabathia, including a grand slam for his first career home run.
Myers knocked Sabathia out of the game an inning later on an RBI double.
“The changeup was really cutting back over,” Sabathia said. “The two-seamers that they did hit were hard-hit balls to right field and they were staying on it pretty good.
The home run to Myers came as Sabathia tried to adjust to having a sub-par fastball. He said he tried to get his hand on top of the ball a little more while working with a changeup he described as “here and there.”
Sabathia could have had a better fate had Jacoby Ellsbury made the catch or right fielder Carlos Beltran properly backed up the ball when it caromed off the fence. But even with those factors working against Sabathia, he could not locate or execute pitches.
“Today I didn’t think he had good stuff,” manager Joe Girardi said. “For the most part he’s had pretty good stuff to me, except for an inning here, an inning there, where he makes some mistakes, but today he just didn’t really have it.”
Sabathia's next start will be next weekend in Milwaukee, the team he led to the playoffs in 2008 before joining the Yankees in free agency.
“I just keep going out there trying to get better,” Sabathia said. “I think last year I got down on myself and made myself miserable. I think this year, I’m [going to] stay positive and do a little better in my preparation before games, scouting report, watching videos, because I know I can get these guys out. I’ve done it, so I’ll stay confident.”
Still those are words no Yankee fans want to hear from their Opening Day starter, especially with questions on days other than when Masahiro Tanaka pitches.
“I think overall we have to start getting some length out of our starters and start getting guys on a roll,” Girardi said.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.