Masahiro Tanaka set to make first start today

Weather permitting, Tanaka will face loaded Phillies lineup in Clearwater
03/06/2014 11:38 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro
Despite pouring rain all morning in both Tampa and Clearwater, the Yankees have boarded a bus and are headed to Bright House Field for a 1:05 p.m. battle with a Phillies split-squad.

Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound today, making his second appearance and first start of the spring. Tanaka said earlier in the week that he was happy to be starting because it meant he would have the potential to face more major-league hitters, and the scheduled Phillies lineup has plenty, with regulars Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown, and Carlos Ruiz hitting third through seventh and three other players with extensive MLB time in the lineup as well.

On the other side, the Yankees lineup behind Tanaka very much resembles what the opening day lineup could look like, with one substitution; Mason Williams will start in center field today instead of Jacoby Ellsbury, but if you make that swap and flip-flop Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in the order, this could be what you see on April 1 in Houston. Here's the full lineup:

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Ramon Flores RF
Brian McCann C
Alfonso Soriano DH
Kelly Johnson 3B
Brian Roberts 2B
Mason Williams CF

This will mark the spring debuts of both Teixeira and Soriano, with Tex's coming one year and one day after the initial wrist injury that curtailed his 2013. He will be spelled by Corban Joseph at first base, and among the other reserves, John Ryan Murphy is slated to take over for McCann behind the plate and the remainder of the second-string infield features hot-hitting Yangervis Solarte at second, Brendan Ryan behind Jeter at short, and Scot Sizemore getting his first turn at the hot corner.

Behind Tanaka, the Yankees have Bruce Billings, Chris Leroux, Mark Montgomery, Dan Burawa, and Fred Lewis scheduled, with Preston Claiborne, Cesar Cabral, Brian Gordon, and Chase Whitley all on the trip and available if needed. Leroux in particular will be one to watch, as the non-roster invitee has pitched multiple innings in both of his previous spring appearances and has allowed just one hit over his four frames.

One other big thing to mention about the game: it will be the first of seven the Yankees play this spring where expanded instant replay will be tested. Joe Girardi said Wednesday that he and his staff will "practice" the replay system during the game, and he hinted that he could give the challenge system a whirl if any play is remotely close enough to cause doubt: "I was thinking, if I didn't get a call, would I do it one time just to do it, just so I know the feel of it? And I might. Why not? You've only got so many chances in spring training."

And, one other note from Yankees camp: CC Sabathia was scheduled to pitch a simulated game to Austin Romine today, but with the rain, that was delayed and could be done in an inside batting cage later. David Phelps was the only other pitcher scheduled to throw today, and he has already thrown his side session indoors.

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