BALTIMORE -- CC Sabathia was asked to evaluate his season, and his nostrils flared before he wisely bit his tongue.
"I almost cussed right there," Sabathia said, taking a long pause. "Not very good. Not very good."
Sabathia took a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Friday before coughing up a three-run lead en route to New York's 4-3 loss to Baltimore, and he is always the first to shoulder the blame when things go awry.
But catcher Chris Stewart has been encouraged by Sabathia's improving velocity, which was a popular talking point early in the season but has become less so as the weather has warmed.
Sabathia has picked up about a mile per hour on his fastball each month, from an average of 90.67 mph in April to 92.32 mph in June, according to Brooks Baseball. His average fastball velocity on Friday was 93.05 mph, his best of the season.
"His fastball had a little more life on it," Stewart said. "Maybe it was the weather. It's warming up, and his body is feeling better out there. He was definitely really good out there."
That may calm the velocity concerns, but Sabathia will now enter July with an 8-6 record and 4.15 ERA in 17 starts, and having allowed a team-leading 17 home runs.
Sabathia said that he does not feel far off, which makes any issues all the more frustrating. But Stewart, informed of Sabathia's evaluation of his season, doesn't quite agree.
"He's being a little bit hard [on himself], but obviously he's not CC-like this year," he said. "Like [Friday] -- it's an ERA-inflator, but there's nothing much you can do. He's had a couple of those games this year.
"He's un-CC-like maybe numbers-wise, but as far as intensity and the way he goes about it, he's the same guy. It's just tough that his numbers aren't with him this year."
Girardi says Gardner worthy of All-Star nod
BALTIMORE -- Brett Gardner's name has not yet appeared on any of the All-Star balloting updates, but manager Joe Girardi is hoping that oversight will be corrected.
"I think he's worthy of being on the All-Star team," Girardi said. "I think he's had a great first half defensively, offensively. He's played every day. I believe he's an All-Star."
Gardner, 29, entered play on Saturday batting .288 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 79 games, bouncing back from a season in which he was limited to 16 games because of an injured right elbow.
Gardner has hit safely in 26 of 32 games since May 24, batting .331 over that stretch. He had a .347 on-base percentage and .450 slugging percentage entering Saturday.
The only Yankees outfielder to rank near the top of any balloting update was Ichiro Suzuki, who clocked in at 15th at each checkpoint. Robinson Cano has led AL second basemen at each update.
A-Rod 'having fun' as he works his way back
BALTIMORE -- Alex Rodriguez said on Saturday that he "can't wait to get back" into the lineup, but he's not sure when he will begin a Minor League rehab assignment.
"So far, no issues," Rodriguez told the Associated Press in Tampa, Fla. "I'm just working really hard. I'm having fun. It's exciting to be back on the field."
Rodriguez has been facing live pitching at the Yankees' complex as he returns from January surgery on his left hip. He also is fielding grounders, running the bases and doing sliding drills.
"I feel like my swing is definitely getting back to form," he said, "[and I'm defensively] moving better the last few days. Everything is coming along."
Rodriguez is "absolutely" fine with the Yankees following this week's events, which included a verbal rebuke by general manager Brian Cashman after Rodriguez said on Twitter that he had been cleared to begin playing in games.
Rodriguez and Cashman later conducted a conference call to clear the air, with team president Randy Levine also on the call.
"Ready to get back on the field," Rodriguez said. "All good."
Jeter may be ready to begin game action in Minors
BALTIMORE -- The latest update on Derek Jeter is that he has made it through all of his simulated at-bats fine and may be in position to progress to game action.
According to manager Joe Girardi, Jeter had more simulated at-bats on Saturday in Tampa, Fla., and should soon progress to a Minor League rehab game.
"With the simulated at-bats, I think the next step would be a game, like a rehab game," Girardi said.
Girardi said that Jeter has not yet run the bases, but that he has run arcs on the infield. Jeter has reported no problems with his surgically repaired left ankle, which he reinjured during Spring Training.
"Everything has been good," Girardi said.
Girardi said it is likely that both Jeter and Alex Rodriguez would need a full 20-day Minor League assignment before they could rejoin the big league roster.
"I think you have to assume it, just because they haven't played at all, and the first couple of games, they are going to play four or five innings," Girardi said. "You just have to build yourself up, and it takes time -- kind of like a regular Spring Training.
"You just go day by day and decide when they're ready. They're coming off injuries, so you want to make sure they'll able to go back-to-back-to-back, possibly. It's a little bit different."
• The Yankees are going with a three-man bench, in part because they plan to have Ivan Nova start one of the four games against the Twins next week at Target Field, but also because their Triple-A roster has been hit by injuries.
Manager Joe Girardi said that the only likely option for a callback from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is outfielder Thomas Neal, who had two hits in 11 at-bats for New York earlier this month. Such other choices as infielder Ronnier Mustelier and outfielder Brennan Boesch remain on the Triple-A disabled list.
• The Yankees entered play on Saturday 5 1/2 games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox, the farthest they've been out of first place this season, but Girardi has not seen any panic in the clubhouse.
"I think their personalities have been really consistent throughout, the winning end and the losing, so I don't think it's wearing them down," he said.
• On this date in 1947, the Yankees started a franchise-record stretch of 19 consecutive victories, outscoring their opponents, 119-41, during the span.