TAMPA , Fla. (AP) CC Sabathia helped his bid to stay in the New York rotation after allowing two runs and six hits in five innings of the Yankees' 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
Evan Longoria hit a solo homer in the first and Kevin Kiermaier had a second-inning RBI single off the former ace, who is competing with Ivan Nova for the starting role.
''I think he's competing and I think he wants it,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. ''We're going to do the best we can leaving spring training and if we have to re-evaluate we will.''
Sabathia was coming off a start Friday against Baltimore in which his ERA jumped to 7.36 after giving up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings. He had two bullpen sessions between starts to work on his problematic change-up.
''Got some good groundballs from it, a couple swing and misses,'' Sabathia said. ''So, I'll continue to keep working, and hopefully it just keeps getting better and better. It's going to be a pitch I need this year.''
The lefty, who retired seven in a row including a double play, struck out four and walked one. He threw 44 of 68 pitches for strikes.
''You want to have good starts, obviously, but it's March,'' Sabathia said. ''I keep saying I can't put too much stock in it. I'm feeling good. A lot better than I felt at this time last year.''
After the regular season in 2015, Sabathia left the team to complete an alcohol treatment program.
Matt Andriese gave up one run and four hits over three innings for the Rays. Steve Pearce had three hits.
Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez had a broken-bat single in two at-bats and is hitting .300 (9 for 30). A-Rod homered on his first spring training at-bat but has failed to go deep in 29 plate appearances.
Rays: Opening day starter Chris Archer allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings in a minor league game against Minnesota prospects.
Yankees: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston threw a fastball strike with the ceremonial first pitch. Winston was on the Florida State University baseball team that played the Yankees in February 2014 at Steinbrenner Field.
Rays: SS Tim Beckham left in the sixth after being hit on the right shin by a pitch. He could play on Saturday.
Yankees: CF Jacoby Ellsbury took on-field batting practice for the first time since getting hit on the right wrist by a pitch Saturday. He might play Saturday or Sunday.
SANCHEZ SENT OUT
Gary Sanchez will not be the Yankees' backup catcher to start the season after being optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He hit just .048 (1 for 21) in 13 games. Austin Romine and Carlos Corporan are competing for the spot.
Expected Yankees opening day starter Masahiro Tanaka will make his final spring training start Tuesday against Pittsburgh. The right-hander has an ERA of 7.36 over four starts after allowing seven earned runs in four innings Wednesday against Washington. After focusing on mechanics, pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Tanaka will get back to basics and ''throwing the ball the way he can.''
Rays: Drew Smyly will face Minnesota Friday.
Yankees: Nova will start Friday against Baltimore. ... Michael Pineda will throw in a minor league game Friday