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Yanks' Irabu Has Strong Outing

Hideki Irabu found his control, allowing three hits in five shutout innings and striking out five Monday in a Triple-A spring training game.

"I think it was a step forward ... a step in the right direction," New York Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. "His change up was better and his curveball was improved. He did a good job mixing up his pitches."

Irabu pitched for Columbus against Scranton, the Philadelphia Phillies' top farm club. Although the Yankees had an off day, Irabu made the trip to the team's minor-league camp to throw on his scheduled day to pitch.

Irabu, who has struggled since the middle of last season, threw 46 of 69 pitches for strikes. His fastball reached 92 mph, and Stottlemyre said its location was much better.

"I think my mechanics were a little off until now," Irabu said through interpreter George Rose. "I think I'm ready to throw 100 pitches with everything I've got."

In three previous spring starts, Irabu allowed eight runs, 11 hits and five walks in 10 2-3 innings.

Darryl Strawberry, slowed by lingering knee problems during his comeback from colon cancer surgery, went 1-for-4 with a walk as the designated hitter.

More importantly, Strawberry stole a base and scored from second on a single.

"He ran the best he's run since the games started," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "It was definitely much better than we've seen. He's making steps in the right direction."

Cashman said Strawberry still has some work to do in outfield drills before making his spring debut in left field. Strawberry remains optimistic he will be ready this week.

Notes: Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, who hasn't pitched since straining a muscle in his throwing elbow March 7, will throw 12-to-15 minutes off a bullpen mound Tuesday. Stottlemyre said Pettitte, who could miss his first regular season start, may throw a few curveballs and changeups. ... Cashman said it is likely the Yankees will break camp with Luis Sojo as the lone backup infielde

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