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03/04/11 11:48 PM ET

Banuelos making strong impression with Yanks

TAMPA, Fla. -- Manny Banuelos' confidence has captured the Yankees' attention this spring, and already the talented left-hander is earning high praise from some of his teammates.

"He has as good stuff as I've seen," said Russell Martin, who caught Banuelos' two scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Friday. "I compare it to [Clayton] Kershaw or even more polished than Kershaw, which is pretty good."

The 22-year-old Kershaw went 13-10 for the Dodgers last year, posting a 2.91 ERA in 32 starts.

Manager Joe Girardi wouldn't bite on the Kershaw comparison, but he remains impressed by what Banuelos, who turns 20 on March 13, has already done in camp.

"From looking at him where I'm standing, it doesn't look like he has any fear," Girardi said. "He's aggressive, he has confidence in his offspeed stuff that he can throw it behind in the count and he doesn't nibble. He goes right at hitters."

Banuelos allowed a hit and a walk in his outing on Friday, striking out two. He figures to open the season at Double-A Trenton, where he made three starts last year, but Martin indicated Banuelos may be ready for a more challenging assignment soon.

"He's tremendous. He's poised out there," Martin said. "You forget that he's 19 years old. He's not scared at all. He just gets the ball and throws it, whatever you put down. He actually has an idea; he's not afraid to shake off. He has a good idea how to pitch and he's only 19, but he knows how to do it."

Martin's knee fine after first game action

TAMPA, Fla. -- In his first action behind the plate, Russell Martin caught the first five innings of the Yankees' 5-3 loss to the Red Sox on Friday, and he reported no difficulties with his surgically repaired right knee.

"Honestly, I wouldn't have been out there if I did feel anything," Martin said. "In all the drills, I've been pushing it pretty hard just to make sure that I would be ready for game situations. It felt good."

The Yankees have allowed Martin some extra time before getting him into the catching mix because the 28-year-old felt some stiffness behind his knee. Martin is wearing a light brace and estimated he is running at about 90 percent.

"The only thing I was worried about was blocking side to side," Martin said. "Ever since I got the brace, I've pushed it to the limit as far as I can go -- left or right -- and it feels good. That's a good sign for me."

The only snag for Martin came with Manny Banuelos pitching in the fourth inning, when Martin was crossed up by a 2-0 pitch that dropped in as a curveball. Martin went to the clubhouse between innings and painted his fingers with White-Out to help Banuelos pick up the signs through the shadows.

"Better to do that than to get smoked in the chest," Martin said.

Manager Joe Girardi said that he now expects Martin to be ready to enter the catching rotation. Girardi plans on catching Martin on Sunday against the Astros at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

"He's got plenty of time to get in shape," Girardi said. "You look at Russell, he's a young guy and he's used to playing every day. I'll see how he feels [Saturday] and we'll try to get him two days in a row coming up."

Posada not in race to backup Martin

TAMPA, Fla. -- If the Yankees were going to re-think their stance on Jorge Posada, now might be a good time. But they are holding firm that the 39-year-old is now a designated hitter and no longer a catcher.

With Francisco Cervelli sidelined for more than a month with a fractured left foot, Posada said that he does not expect to enter the derby for the Yankees' backup catcher job.

"I'm not catching. I'm a DH," Posada said. "They haven't said anything about me catching, so I'm just getting ready to be a DH."

Posada still keeps his gear in his locker and has been catching bullpen sessions to stay sharp, but manager Joe Girardi said that he has "no plans" to start Posada in a Grapefruit League game.

That leaves Posada, who went 0-for-1 with two walks on Friday, to work on getting used to life as a designated hitter.

"It's better at home than it is on the road; the cages are in here and stuff, so I can get ready for the game," Posada said. "I'm still working on it. I've got a lot of time on my hands."

Soriano dominates batting-practice session

TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees right-hander Rafael Soriano made a good first impression in action on Friday, firing 20 dominant pitches of batting practice.

"He was good, real good," manager Joe Girardi said. "[There were] probably as many swings and misses in a batting practice session as I've ever seen. And this is with the guys knowing what's coming."

Soriano threw to Daniel Brewer and Bradley Suttle, a pair of Yankees Minor Leaguers. Suttle called Soriano's stuff "pretty nasty."

"His fastball seemed to explode out of his hand and rise up," Suttle said.

Soriano signed a three-year, $35 million contract to serve as Mariano Rivera's setup man after leading the American League with 45 saves last season. Girardi said Soriano needs to throw one more batting-practice session and then would be ready to appear in a game.

Bombers bits

Actor and Yankees fan Richard Gere threw out Friday's ceremonial first pitch. Jorge Posada caught it. ... Four of Alex Rodriguez's five hits this spring have been doubles. A-Rod is 5-for-10 (.500). ... Greg Golson switched to the bulkier Rawlings S-100 batting helmet after being struck by an A.J. Burnett pitch on Sunday. ... Yankees starters have allowed one run in 15 innings this spring.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.