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03/30/07 12:30 PM ET

Sabathia clears last hurdle

Indians ace left-hander a sure thing to start Opening Day

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- C.C. Sabathia made it through a late-spring scare unscathed.

"I dodged a bullet," the Indians' left-handed ace said Friday morning.

Sabathia had just thrown a 52-pitch bullpen session that confirmed his readiness for his Opening Day start on Monday against the White Sox. He threw all his pitches with no pain or complication.

"That was the best bullpen he's thrown all spring," pitching coach Carl Willis was overheard to say.

Sabathia will continue to ice his left forearm, which was nailed by a line drive off the bat of Toronto's Reed Johnson in the first inning of a Grapefruit League game at Chain of Lakes Park on Wednesday. X-rays of the arm revealed it is not broken.

"It's a little puffy," Sabathia said of the arm. "It's fine, though. I'm not expecting any setbacks."

Sabathia never seems to get through a spring without at least a little drama.

In 2002, '03 and '04, he missed a week of action with strep throat. In 2005, he was warming up for his first exhibition outing and strained his right oblique muscle, causing him to miss breaking camp with the team. In '06, he got out of Florida with no trouble, but strained his oblique in the third inning of his Opening Day start in Chicago.

This injury looked a lot more disastrous than it turned out to be.

"Once we got the X-rays and I got it in my head that it's just a bruise," Sabathia said, "I knew I'd be fine."

Though he essentially missed his last spring start, Sabathia said he has been cleared to throw up to 110 pitches in the opener. He threw 88 pitches in a Minor League start March 23.

The Indians are breaking out of camp on Friday evening and will make a pit stop in Memphis for Saturday's Civil Rights Game against the Cardinals before heading to Chicago. They are hoping to bounce back from a fourth-place finish in 2006, and they'll be counting on Sabathia, who went 12-11 with a 3.22 ERA last season, to lead their rotation.

"I'm excited to get to Chicago and get this thing rolling," Sabathia said. "Everybody's anxious and ready to get out of here. We have the team to accomplish our goal of winning the [American League] Central. It starts Monday with a division game in Chicago. We'll strap it on and be ready to go."

And the fact that Sabathia is ready to go has the Indians breathing a heavy sigh of relief.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.