TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees want Hiroki Kuroda to provide a steady veteran presence in their rotation, and it's a challenge that catcher Russell Martin believes the right-hander will have no problem meeting.
"Having me here kind of gives him that comfort zone," said Martin, who worked with Kuroda with the Dodgers from 2008-10. "I think the toughest transition for him was when he went from Japan to L.A., the first transition to the Major Leagues.
"He's pitched in Interleague, he's pitched against American League teams before, so he knows how it works. He's a veteran guy; he'll adapt."
Martin said that Kuroda, 37, has proven himself as a "tremendous" competitor and that the key for the Yankees -- who signed him to a one-year, $10 million deal in January -- will be keeping him healthy.
"He knows me -- not just my pitches, but he knows my personality," Kuroda said of Martin, via an interpreter. "It's going to be a really big help."
Kuroda went 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA in 32 starts for Los Angeles last year. Martin said that Kuroda reaches up to 95 mph with good two-seam sinking action on his fastball, also featuring a cutter, curveball, slider and a split-fingered fastball that serves as a strikeout pitch.
"He's got good command and you'll see, he's pretty good," Martin said.
Girardi seeing nothing but good things at camp
TAMPA, Fla. -- There were optimistic thoughts racing through Joe Girardi's mind as the Yankees manager surveyed his team's first workout of the spring on Monday, set under brilliant sunshine at the George M. Steinbrenner Field training complex.
Girardi craned his neck to take in the impressive sight of 6-foot-7 hurlers CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda firing pitches from bullpens behind the ballpark, then paused to note how pleasant baseballs sounded cracking off bats on the main field.
"It was good to be back out there," Girardi said. "Obviously, you look forward to this day. I thought our guys came in in good shape; they were all prepared to go. You try not to get too excited about the way they look on the side, or in their mound sessions.
"The one thing I told all of them is that you're not going to make the team today; you're not going to make the team in two weeks. This is just a time to get prepared to compete, as Spring Training goes on. But it's good to be back."
As the Yankees' pitchers and catchers chugged through their conditioning and drills, Girardi will take charge of a club that appears to have few weak areas. Perhaps his biggest challenge of the spring will be in whittling his starting rotation from six pitchers to five, and Girardi promised to go in with an open mind.
"We have what, 6 1/2 weeks to iron that out?" Girardi said. "The best-case scenario for us is that everyone's throwing well, there are no injuries and there are no setbacks, and you have to make a tough decision. Sometimes a rotation has a way of ironing itself out, as ours did last year."
Position players are scheduled to report to camp on Friday, and the Yankees have their first exhibition game scheduled for March 2 against the University of South Florida.
Girardi said that he flew to Tampa expecting to keep the top of his lineup constant from where it was for the playoffs last year; that is, to have Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira comprising the top five, in that order.
"I'm not married to that; I'm not saying that's what it's going to be," Girardi said. "But it seems that we have some guys that can be really productive. ... I envision Robbie hitting third and going from there."
Girardi also does not anticipate editing the setup mix, which had Rafael Soriano handling the seventh inning and David Robertson assigned to the eighth.
"Robbie was our eighth-inning guy, Sori was our seventh-inning guy," Girardi said. "It worked out really well. I don't necessarily have any ideas of making any changes right now to it."
Martin, Yankees discussed extension
TAMPA, Fla. -- Russell Martin says he couldn't be happier to be back wearing Yankees pinstripes this year, and for a time, he was thinking about extending his stay even further.
Martin said on Monday that his representatives had discussed a three-year contract with the Yankees during the winter. He signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal instead, but could be open to revisiting the topic down the road.
"It was a first start," Martin said. "I love being here. Just the guys, the organization, the way they handle their business, it's a fun environment."
As a rule, the Yankees do not discuss contract extensions in-season, a guideline that general manager Brian Cashman has applied to players like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia in past years.
Martin, 29, hopes to improve on a Yankees debut season that saw him hit .237 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs in 125 games. Martin is trimmer than he was last spring, weighing in seven pounds lighter, but he's more excited about the increase in power he feels.
Now down to 205 pounds, Martin followed the same training program as last winter, when he enlisted the help of a Montreal trainer who also works with Mixed Martial Arts fighter Georges St. Pierre.
"I did the same type of work that they do in the weight room; my strength coach works with hockey players and MMA guys, so my conditioning level was just about as good as theirs," Martin said.
"Not quite as good -- those guys are fighting for their lives. I don't need to be prepared to fight three- or five-minute rounds. I have to run to first base, then jog around the bases when I do my job right."
Last year, Martin came to camp rehabbing following surgery on his right knee, which kept him from performing extensive training on his lower half. This year, he has no restrictions, and he can sense a difference.
"Last year, I got away with doing the best that I could in a short period of time during spring to get my legs underneath me, but it's not the same," Martin said. "We'll see what happens, but right now I feel pretty good."
Michael Pineda's slider drew manager Joe Girardi's attention on Monday. "I was like, wow, for this time of the spring it's pretty good," Girardi said.
Russell Martin texted A.J. Burnett and told him he plans to bunt if Burnett faces the Yankees in Grapefruit League play. "LOL, I know you better than that, man," Burnett texted back, according to Martin. The Yankees play Pittsburgh on March 6 in Bradenton, Fla. and March 20 in Tampa.
Girardi said that he noted Jorge Posada's absence while watching hitters take BP on the main field. "It's just strange. You miss him," he said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.