TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Nick Johnson is working on a new hitting philosophy this spring. CC Sabathia is trying to refine his pitching motion.
Their results couldn't have been more dissimilar Tuesday.
Johnson pulled homers to right in each of his at_bats, while Sabathia was rocked for five runs in two-plus innings in the New York Yankees' 12-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
``Terrible. Location was bad. Collapsing on the backside,' Sabathia said. ``Still struggling with my delivery. I guess it's going to take a while. Just try to get better.'
Over on the other side of the clubhouse, Johnson was smiling: ``It feels pretty good.'
Johnson signed a $5.75 million, one-year contract in the offseason. He met with Yankees batting coach Kevin Long in the winter, and Long suggested a change to the left handed-hitting Johnson's swing.
``I'm not trying to hit the ball always to left,' said Johnson, who's tendency has been to push the ball the opposite way.
He's been working on turning his back side rather than sliding through the zone, which will get his hands to the ball quicker. He's been pulling the ball more in batting practice and trying to hit it where it's pitched, rather than force it the opposite way.
When Johnson's healthy he is a tough out. He has a .402 on-base percentage in his career - last year it was third best in the majors at .426. The one thing Johnson and Long each said was that they are not retooling the swing to better suit Yankee Stadium, where 139 of 237 homers were hit to right in the first season at the ballpark.
``I don't think we can concern ourselves with pulling the ball out of the stadium,' Long said. ``I want it to be an explosive, impactful swing.'
Johnson's second homer off Charlie Morton was the result they were looking for: a sharp liner that happened to clear the wall.
Sabathia also struggled in his second start last spring but ended up having a dominant season, going 19-8 with a 3.37 ERA and anchoring the World Series champions' three-man rotation in the playoffs.
Now, he's trying to keep his arm angle right and finish his motion by keeping his body up.
``It's hard to get back into the mode you were in last year when you feel like you were doing things right in the bullpen and you get out there and just in the heat of the competition everything speeds up and you start collapsing - and you see the results,' he said.
Sabathia worked on his arm slot with pitching coach Dave Eiland during his regular bullpen session last weekend in preparation for the start.
``He did it in his second start last year in the spring,' manager Joe Girardi said. ``So we get it out of the way. He said he felt good, he felt strong and that's the most important thing.'
Morton gave up four hits and three runs in three innings and left with a 5-3 lead against several of the Yankees stars, including Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
``There were a couple of pitch selections that we'll go over with him, but his sinker was good and he threw some pretty good off-speed pitches,' Pirates manager John Russell said. ``When you face a lineup like that, it's tough to get through it.'
NOTES: The Yankees traded RHP Edwar Ramirez to the Texas Rangers for cash. Ramirez was designated for assignment when they added right-hander Chan Ho Park to their 40-man roster on Feb. 28. ... Yankees C Francisco Cervelli took batting practice and caught a bullpen session for first time since he sustained a concussion Saturday. He said he hopes to play Friday. ... Park threw 35 pitches in the bullpen. His session was pushed back from Monday after he said he had soreness in a muscle in his buttocks. ... Pittburgh RHP Octavio Dotel (oblique) threw 30 pitches in a side session in Bradenton. He is expected to have a bullpen session Thursday.
The Associated Press News Service
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