DETROIT — CC Sabathia was grateful to be back on the mound in a regular season game — even if it meant having to pitch in subfreezing temperatures.
"It was nice to be in a stadium with a third deck again," he said. "That's when you know the games count."
Sabathia pitched into the seventh inning for New York, and Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran homered in the cold to lift the Yankees to an 8-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. It was Sabathia's first start in a real game since missing the postseason last year while undergoing alcohol rehabilitation. He pitched for New York during spring training but not very well.
In this one, Sabathia (1-0) allowed three runs and four hits in six-plus innings, walking four and striking out three. He retired the first nine batters he faced and had only one really messy stretch, in the fourth.
The temperature at game time was 31 degrees, the coldest in Comerica Park history, according to STATS LLC.
"It's not great weather conditions to pitch, but I think CC's such a competitor. That's what it tells me," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He really wants to be out there, really relishes being out there."
Since switching to a tighter knee brace in September, Sabathia is 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA in six starts.
Rodriguez gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the first with his 688th career homer, and Beltran hit a two-run shot in the fifth.
Mike Pelfrey (0-1) allowed six runs and eight hits in 32/3 innings in his first start for the Tigers after signing with Detroit in the offseason.
There were snowflakes floating above the field shortly before the game, but that wasn't a factor after the first pitch. Girardi said beforehand that he hoped Sabathia could give the team six innings, and the big lefthander did just that. He was given a nice lead to work with by the New York offense.
The Yankees led 6-0 after a four-run fourth highlighted by Jacoby Ellsbury's three-run triple. Sabathia loaded the bases on walks in the bottom of the inning and gave up James McCann's two-run single — the first Detroit hit. Mike Aviles lined out to deep left with the bases loaded to end that rally.
Beltran's homer made it 8-2. Sabathia pitched to one batter in the seventh, allowing a single before being taken out of the game at 90 pitches. The Tigers went on to score two runs in the inning, but they couldn't cut any further into New York's lead after that as Detroit's season-opening three-game winning streak came to an end.
The previous coldest game-time temperature at Comerica was 36 degrees on April 23, 2015.
New York's Starlin Castro had two hits, including the 1,000th of his career.
Sabathia said it means a lot to be back, especially with his mom and wife at the game.
"They had it easy," he said. "They were in a heated suite while I was out there in that. The guys in here and the organization have been great, but my wife and my mom have been my rocks."
Detroit manager Brad Ausmus, who's from Cheshire, was ejected in the top of the fifth for arguing balls and strikes. He said his issues with plate umpire Paul Emmel began the previous inning, when J.D. Martinez was called out on strikes in a big spot.
"I thought that was ball four, and I was a little irritated. Paul is doing his best. He's not trying to miss any calls, and quite honestly, I couldn't tell if he did miss the call that I am upset about," Ausmus said. "It was warmer in here, but I'd rather have been out there."
Yankees: Chase Headley was given a day off, with 3B Ronald Torreyes replacing him in the starting lineup. Torreyes had three hits.
Yankees: New York sends RHP Masahiro Tanaka (0-0) to the mound against Detroit on Sunday night. Tanaka received a no-decision in his first start of the season against Houston.
Tigers: Justin Verlander (0-0) makes his second start of the season. He's 5-7 with a 4.03 ERA in 17 starts against the Yankees.
Nick Swisher is set to rejoin the Yankees on a minor league contract.
Swisher took batting practice and worked out at first base Saturday at the Yankees' minor league complex in Florida.
Several team officials were involved in the session.
A team spokesman said a deal is expected to be completed.
"The fact they let me come out here and work is great," Swisher said. "It keeps me in the game, keeps me going strong, and I appreciate that. This place is like family."
The 35-year-old infielder/outfielder, who played for the Yankees from 2009-12, asked if he could work out at the complex and the team said yes. Swisher would provide depth, especially at first base.