TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – CC Sabathia will start both the regular season and home opener for the New York Yankees.

Manager Joe Girardi said Thursday the left-hander will pitch the season opener at Baltimore on April 6, and will also throw the first regular-season pitch at the new Yankee Stadium 10 days later against Cleveland.

“I’m excited,” Sabathia said. “To be able to take the ball the first one of the season and then to open the new stadium, I think it’s going to be fun. It will be a special moment. It’s cool to be able to have my family there and be part of it.”

Sabathia agreed to a $161 million, seven-year contract with New York in December after leaving Milwaukee as a free agent.

Girardi is also “toying” with the idea of flip-flopping leadoff hitter Johnny Damon and No. 2 hitter Derek Jeter in the batting order. The manager plans to have Jeter hit first and Damon second on a regular basis during the remaining spring training games.

“We could flip it, yes,” Girardi said. “Johnny is a pull guy. Johnny’s the type of guy that’s good at getting guys over. We’re going to play with a little bit here unless there’s something that changes our mind.”

Damon batted second in several games earlier in spring training when catcher Jorge Posada, coming back from right shoulder surgery last July 30, batted first in order to get extra at-bats.

“I’m OK with it,” Damon said. “We all know Derek’s on-base percentage. Hopefully I can continue to feel comfortable in that position. The good thing about it is Derek and I both want to win. I just think this possibly could be better for the team.”

Jeter had left the ballpark before the clubhouse was opened to the media late in the Yankees’ 10-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday.

“I showed it to him Tuesday night and he said, ‘Great,”‘ Girardi said. “He was fine with it. He’s done it before, so this is not something new for him. Probably a little more with Johnny, but Johnny felt very comfortable there.”

Jeter went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. He worked a 3-2 count before hitting an infield single leading off the first.

“Jeet has that ability,” Girardi said. “There’s times he’s aggressive in the count, and there’s times he can work the count. He did a nice job leading off today and he’ll do it again tomorrow.”

Damon had one hit in four at-bats, including an RBI single that scored Jeter, who had doubled, in the fifth.

No. 5 starter Joba Chamberlain, on an innings limit this season, is set to make his first start in the Yankees’ sixth game, at Kansas City on April 12.

“I think his development has went pretty well,” Girardi said.

Chamberlain allowed two runs – on first-inning solo homers by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard – and three hits in 4 1-3 innings. He threw 40 of 76 pitches for strikes.

Girardi is looking forward to the home opener next month.

“Electric,” he said. “I think it’s going to be like little kids in a candy store.”

Notes: Long relief candidates Brett Tomko, Alfredo Aceves and Dan Giese will pitch on Saturday. “We need to see all three pitch again,” Girardi said. … The Yankees likely will decide this weekend whether Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera will start in center. Gardner is thought to be the front-runner.

AP-ES-03-26-09 1736EDT

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