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Masahiro Tanaka to make spring debut on March 1

CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda also set to pitch on a "super Saturday"
02/25/2014 5:09 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Masahiro Tanaka will make his spring debut in relief on March 1.(AP)
Yankees manager Joe Girardi made it official on Tuesday: the Masahiro Tanaka era begins on Saturday, March 1.

Following the Yankees' spring-opening 8-3 win over Florida State, Girardi announced his rotation choices for the next four days, and he dropped a second bombshell about Saturday's tilt with the Phillies: it will feature not only Tanaka, but CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda as well.

According to the skipper, Sabathia will start that game, with Tanaka and Kuroda pitching in relief; the order behind Sabathia wasn't revealed, but Girardi did say that all three are scheduled for roughly two innings and/or 35 pitches against the Phillies.

"The first outing, that's what we allow them to do," Girardi said of the limits. "The big thing is, we want them to start an inning, make sure they start an inning."

Leading up to that "super Saturday," Yankees fans will get to see most of the candidates for the final two rotation spots in the first few days of the Grapefruit League schedule. After Vidal Nuno's start on Tuesday, Girardi has Ivan Nova scheduled to go Wednesday against Pittsburgh, David Phelps penciled in Thursday against the Pirates (in what will be the Yanks' first spring game on YES), and Adam Warren set to face reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer when the Yankees visit the Tigers on Friday.

Saturday will be the only time the "big three" will be featured in the same game, however, as the skipper said that they will be separated going forward and Tanaka will likely get an extra day of rest here and there throughout the spring.

"Tanaka's starts are going to space out a little bit more in spring training, he'll be on five days sometimes," Girardi said. "With some off-days, it gets kind of tricky, so it's just the way (pitching coach) Larry (Rothschild) drew it up. That's the way it works."

As for the other rotation candidate, Michael Pineda, his debut still remains a mystery, as Girardi gave no word on when he would make his first appearance of the spring.

While certainly a treat for Yankees fans, the pairing of Sabathia, Kuroda and Tanaka in the same game also gives all of the Yankees' potential starters a chance to start getting stretched out, something that will perhaps benefit the Yankees most when they get to a mid-March stretch of seven games in four days.

The Yankees will split their squad on Thursday, March 13, for games against the Orioles and Phillies, and with the "Legend Series" now officially set for March 15-16 in Panama, the Yankees will follow Friday, March 14's lone game against the Twins with a pair of split doubleheaders that weekend; one part of the squad will head to Panama City for the two games with the Marlins, while those left stateside will draw the Orioles on Saturday and the Braves on Sunday.

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