Yanks' fifth starter derby down to two-horse race?

Girardi likely eyeing either Phelps, Pineda for rotation's final spot
03/13/2014 2:41 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Manager Joe Girardi has tipped his hand as to which pitcher's are competing for the final spot in the team's rotation.(AP)
TAMPA, Fla. - Joe Girardi's rotation is set through March 21, and his choices seem to give an indication that the competition for the fifth starter's job is really down to a two-man race.

With the whole team reunited after a trip to Panama, Hiroki Kuroda that will start on Monday against the Pirates in Bradenton, with Michael Pineda to make his second spring start at home Tuesday against the Red Sox. Beyond that, Ivan Nova is "going to Disney World" Wednesday to battle the Braves, David Phelps is set to make Thursday night's trip to Fort Myers to face the Red Sox, and CC Sabathia is then slated for some Friday night lights at home against the Pirates.

Although unconfirmed, it's then logical to assume that Masahiro Tanaka would be next Saturday's starter against the Twins in Fort Myers - and with only six spring games beyond that left to account for, it seems that the race for the final spot is down to Phelps and Pineda, with Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno's starts this Saturday more to fill in the gaps than to see what they can do.

Girardi was non-committal Thursday, saying only that his decision on the fifth starter will "come down to which 12 guys make us the best team," and that in his mind, the versatility that Phelps and Adam Warren have to pitch in relief could actually work more for them than against them.

"You might think (that the versatility hurts), but I think it might work for them in a sense, because it gives them two options to make the team," the skipper said. "We'll go with the 12 best guys."

If it is down to two, though, Girardi did admit that the team brass knows that even in a perfect world, they won't get 30 starts and/or 200 innings out of Pineda, but that won't work against the 22-year-old righty, either.

"If (Pineda) is a starter, you're going to have to adjust. I know they've talked about it, but I'm sure if and when he's a part of our club and it becomes a factor, we'll cross that when we get there," Girardi said. "I'm sure we'll talk about every possibility and what makes the most sense for us, and go from there."

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