TAMPA — Ron Gardenhire is in his first year as manager of the Tigers, but he spent 13 seasons at the helm in Minnesota, and he’s had a front-row seat to CC Sabathia’s transformation from fireballer to crafty lefty.

“That’s what really good pitchers do,” Gardenhire said after Sabathia had a solid outing against Detroit, giving up just one run in four innings in a 2-2 tie Tuesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “That’s how they hang around a long, long time. He can pitch. I hate it when he pitches against us because he’s tough.”

There had been doubts — as recently as last season — about how much longer opponents would talk about Sabathia like that.

But other than the injury he suffered in Toronto in August that briefly led Sabathia to consider retirement, he has thrived despite diminished velocity.

The process of getting by with less continued Tuesday, when Sabathia challenged himself by trying to come up with different ways to deal with Miguel Cabrera.

“After I got him out with a changeup the first time, I just tried to figure out how to get him out the next time,” Sabathia said. “You can’t let him see the same pitches the next time.”

It’s a puzzle Sabathia didn’t have to worry about in his younger years.

“I didn’t give a [bleep] about sequence then,” Sabathia said with a laugh, referring to when he had dominant stuff. “You were gonna get what you were gonna get: fastball and slider.”

That hasn’t been the case for a while, and the Yankees are trusting the 37-year-old to again be able to more than just get by using guile more than gas.

It’s why they signed him to a $10 million deal early in the offseason — a contract Sabathia almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten if he had stayed on the market.

“We’ve battled him for a long time when he was in Cleveland and [the Yankees],’’ Gardenhire said. “He figures out ways to beat you. He’s a tough guy who’s been through a lot.”

Sabathia continues to pitch with a brace and receives regular treatment on his knee, as his new manager gets a different look at him.

“There’s no question he has made that transition,” Aaron Boone said. “I think he’s a great athlete, so for being such a big guy, he’s so repeatable with his delivery that I just think he’s gotten now really comfortable with how to pitch with the stuff he has and he sequences really [well]. It allows him to throw any pitch any time for a strike.”

Sabathia’s only mistake turned into a homer by Leonys Martin in the third, as he allowed four hits and one run in four innings.

He expects to make two more starts this spring and insisted he wouldn’t have a problem pitching in Toronto, where he suffered the setback to his knee in August — and where the Yankees play the first four games of the season.

“There’s no turf on the mound,” said Sabathia, adding it was simply a coincidence his knee got worse there.

Instead, he’s more concerned with how to keep hitters off-balance.

It’s a process his former teammate Phil Hughes is going through. The Twins right-hander credited Sabathia with helping him deal with pitching with reduced velocity.

“I think you’re always still learning and trying to figure things out, but I feel pretty comfortable with the stuff that I have,” Sabathia said. “[Hughes] looked good [Monday]. You’ve got to try to trick them with the stuff you’ve got. I always feel like you want to get better.”