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02/27/12 3:26 PM ET

Pettitte impressed by Banuelos' stuff

TAMPA, Fla. -- As Manny Banuelos fired away on Steinbrenner Field's main diamond Monday, someone who knows a little bit about being a successful big league lefty leaned against the cage and offered his approval.

"That's the first time I've seen him throw. He looks great, man," Andy Pettitte said. "The ball just explodes coming out of his hand."

Pettitte arrived in camp on Monday as a guest instructor, and though he said he has no interest in becoming an unofficial pitching coach, he will be interested to track Banuelos' progress.

"You never know what anybody's going to do until they get to the big league level and they go out there and they are kind of battle-tested," Pettitte said. "You can talk about people all you want, but he looks great. His stuff looks great.

"He's just got a live arm, and from what I hear, he's got a chance to do some good things. I haven't even had a chance to meet him yet, but I'll try to introduce myself to him and talk to him. If I can do anything to help him, I would love to be able to do that, that's for sure."

Banuelos, who turns 21 next month, was a combined 6-7 with a 3.75 ERA in 27 starts at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year. Banuelos said that he needs to cut down on his walks, having permitted 71 in 129 2/3 innings. 

"I think I didn't do like I wanted," Banuelos said. "So now I know what mistakes I did, I don't want to do again, especially command of my fastball. It's so important to command the fastball, control the fastball. I don't want any more walks."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he has been impressed thus far by both Banuelos and right-hander Dellin Betances.

"I think both of them are improved, when you look at both of these young kids," Girardi said. "I think they're more consistent in the strikes they throw, in their mechanics. The quality of the pitches they throw -- I can see it."

Yankees take their cuts against Pineda, CC

TAMPA, Fla. -- Rolling out of bed and having to face Michael Pineda in early-morning batting practice probably ranks among the most unpleasant wakeup calls that the Yankees will experience all year.

That was the situation for Colin Curtis and Melky Mesa, who were summoned to a diamond behind George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday to take swings against the best offerings that Pineda and CC Sabathia could muster.

"He's a monster," Curtis said of Pineda. "He's big up there. I think him and CC might be the two biggest guys you can find. It was good, though, because the sun was back there. They were kind of blocking it."

Yes, the Yankees have two 6-foot-7 solar eclipses on their pitching staff, their towering reach only made more impressive as it hurtles off a 10-inch mound. Catcher Gustavo Molina said that he came away impressed.

"Really good stuff," Molina said. "That's the first time I caught [Pineda]. It looks like he has power in everything he throws. It looked good for me. They know what they're doing. That's why they made the move."

Pineda and Sabathia each threw 25 pitches in the session, and there wasn't much clean contact. While the Yankees know what they have in Sabathia, there was a level of curiosity about Pineda's outing.

"I know I'm the new guy here, but all the players help me all the time," Pineda said. "It's good."

Molina said that Pineda mixed in five or six changeups, a pitch that the 23-year-old has been taking instruction from pitching coach Larry Rothschild to hone.

"He's working on it," Molina said. "It's pretty good, from my standpoint. He's a power pitcher, and any power pitcher needs soft stuff. I think if he can do it, it will help a lot."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that the team will be looking for Pineda to use his changeup in exhibition games, beginning with his March 5 start against the Phillies, and will not worry about any runs that result from it.

"It is important to him, and it is important that he works on it in Spring Training," Girardi said. "He's a guy that we're not going to get real caught up with the numbers. We just want him to develop that pitch."

Nova slated to pitch in Yanks' Grapefruit opener

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have set their rotation for the first week of Spring Training games, tabbing right-hander Adam Warren to start Friday's exhibition against the University of South Florida at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Ivan Nova draws the call for New York's Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET, with Freddy Garcia starting the Yankees' first home game on Sunday, also against Philadelphia at 1:05 p.m. Both games are live on MLB.TV.

Michael Pineda makes his Yankees spring debut on March 5 at the Phillies' Bright House Field in Clearwater, available on MLB.TV at 1:05 p.m., while CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes will each pitch in the March 6 contest against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla.

The first turn through the spring rotation will complete with Hiroki Kuroda's debut outing on March 7 at Steinbrenner Field against the Rays at 1:05 p.m. on MLB.TV.

Bombers bits

• Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano has been excused from camp to return to the Dominican Republic. Cano's grandmother passed away on Sunday, manager Joe Girardi said, and Cano will miss "a couple of days."

 • Batting practice against teammates isn't a big hit with Derek Jeter. The Yankees captain didn't swing in any of his plate appearances on Monday and said he rarely does. "I don't like it. I get claustrophobic, man," Jeter said. "The cage, the screen -- everything seems like it's too close. But it's always been like that. Everyone seems like they're throwing 200 mph."

• The Yankees officially announced that they have re-signed infielder Eric Chavez, who agreed to a one-year, $900,000 contract last week and has been working out in camp. In an additional roster move, the Yankees placed right-hander David Aardsma on the 60-day disabled list. The Yankees' 40-man roster currently stands at 39 players.

• The Yankees expect to have Bernie Williams in camp as a guest instructor later in the spring. Yogi Berra is also expected to arrive after exhibitions begin, and Girardi said Berra told him that "he's already in shape. He's ready for the games."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.