Nick Johson Hits Two Home Runs, CC Sabathia Hit Hard as Yankees Fall to Pirates 12-7

TAMPA, Fla. — 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.

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.

Johnson has 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.

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," Yankees 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."

Pirates pitcher Charlie 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."

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.

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