BRADENTON, Fla. -- Right-hander Michael Pineda is seemingly the front-runner for the fifth spot in the rotation, a decision that, as manager Joe Girardi told reporters in Panama, will be made by the end of the week.
General manager Brian Cashman said on Sunday that Pineda is "in full-bore competition to try to make this team, no doubt."
The Yankees entered Spring Training unsure of what to expect from Pineda, who burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2011, then sat out the past two years following shoulder surgery. He hasn't pitched a full season since tossing 171 innings for the Mariners in '11, and the Yankees don't expect him to throw 200 innings this season.
"Haven't thought too strongly about that. We're in a situation where we're trying to win," Cashman said. "And if he puts himself in position to be one of the best guys for us in the front end, so be it, and we'll have to worry about that another day.
"He feels good, which makes us feel good. So he's in Spring Training mode, just knocking rust out and getting it going. It's exciting to think that at some point here, we'll be seeing a guy who can help us at the Major League level. Obviously, we all know what he was before the injury. He's making us believe we have a chance to get back to seeing that again."
Cashman declined to answer whether 170 innings would be considered a fair expectation for Pineda given his recent injury history, but he repeated that Pineda will head north with the Yankees if they consider him the best option. Cashman was reluctant to publicly discuss any sort of limitations the Yankees place on pitchers considering how much attention the "Joba Rules" received.
"I learned that by educating everybody that there's development plans in place -- that take place in every other organization at the Major League level -- it just doesn't play out the same way in New York," he said. "Whatever we choose to do, we're in a 'win now' mode, and we always try to protect our assets, even though trying to protect pitching is very difficult, as we've seen, no matter where you go. We'll keep doing that, but I guess we'll be less forthright about any restrictions that guys should have."
Ellsbury unlikely to face former teammates
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Manager Joe Girardi said that center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury reported to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday feeling better, but he's still unlikely to play on Tuesday against the Red Sox, his former team.
"My guess is it will be no, but I'll see," Girardi said.
Girardi said that Ellsbury was planning to hit in the batting cage on Monday, a day after he was scratched from the lineup because of tightness in his right calf. Tuesday's game would be somewhat more meaningful for Ellsbury considering it would be his first time facing the club that drafted and developed him, but the Yankees would rather not rush him back, especially considering his history of injuries and how important his speed is to his overall game.
Ellsbury did not speak to reporters on Monday but said on Sunday that he would play on Tuesday if he feels healthy. The 30-year-old leadoff man had been scheduled to play on Monday but was scratched from the travel roster a day in advance when he mentioned the tight calf. The game, against the Pirates, was ultimately rained out.
When a reporter reminded Ellsbury on Sunday that the Red Sox are coming to town, he joked that he was already feeling better.
"I'm looking forward to going back [to Boston]," said Ellsbury, who spent seven years with the Red Sox before signing a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees this offseason. "I've always enjoyed playing in that stadium, in front of that crowd, so I don't think it'll really be any different.
"Everybody talks about the reception. I'm not really sure what to expect. Haven't really thought about it. But I'm looking forward to going back there."
Tanaka to pitch on Saturday -- but where?
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to make his next start on Saturday. That much we know.
The Yankees had always planned to give Tanaka an extra day of rest after his strong outing on Sunday against the Braves at George M. Steinbrenner Field, which puts him in line to take the mound again on Saturday. It remains to be seen, however, where he will be pitching.
New York is scheduled to play Minnesota on Saturday in Fort Myers, Fla., a two-hour drive from the Yankees' Spring Training complex. Manager Joe Girardi indicated to reporters that Tanaka will pitch in that game rather than stay closer to home and throw a Minor League or simulated game.
"I'm not so sure what kind of game. A regular game? I think it's a regular game," Girardi said. "I think it's important for him, I do, to see the hitters and what he's going to be facing."
"For me, basically, it's wherever the manager puts me, and I'll just go out there and do my thing," Tanaka added through an interpreter.
• Girardi told reporters that the contingent that visited Panama over the weekend didn't arrive back in Tampa until 12:30 a.m. ET on Monday. Eduardo Nunez, Brian Roberts, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann -- all of whom stayed in Florida -- were the only regulars slated to be in the lineup behind right-hander Hiroki Kuroda in Monday's game against the Pirates, which was rained out.
• Shortstop Brendan Ryan, who's been sidelined by soreness in his lower back, took batting practice on the field on Monday and hopes to play later this week.
• Girardi is impressed by how well Kelly Johnson has handled the transition to playing third base on a regular basis. The former second baseman and left fielder, and Minor League shortstop, is expected to play third every day this season.
"I've been pleased. I've liked what he's done. As we enter the season, I think he's going to do a good job," Girardi said. "I don't really have a lot of concerns about it."