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03/21/12 7:00 PM ET

Starters making Girardi's decision tough

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Joe Girardi might have a few more gray hairs by the time his rotation is settled, but the Yankees manager considers that a welcome problem.

Girardi was encouraged by Phil Hughes' five innings of two-run ball in Wednesday's 5-2 win over the Rays and said that he isn't any closer to figuring out how six arms will fit into five slots.

"I like the way our guys have thrown the ball," Girardi said. "Some of the numbers aren't great, but I've been pleased with the way our starters have went about their business and competed for this. This is going to be a difficult decision."

Ace CC Sabathia (4.50 ERA in eight spring innings) is assured of his Opening Day start on April 6 against Tampa Bay, and Hiroki Kuroda (4.00 ERA in nine innings) figures to be a lock after signing a $10 million deal in January.

Hughes (2.02 ERA in 13 1/3 innings) has had a resurgent spring after a disappointing 2011, while Ivan Nova (7.82 ERA in 12 2/3 innings) and Michael Pineda (3.97 ERA in 11 1/3 innings) have created concerns about their command and velocity, respectively.

The Yankees plan to have their sixth contender, Freddy Garcia (4.50 ERA in eight innings), back in play on Saturday against the Tigers after suffering a bruised right hand earlier in camp.

"I think when you're on the mound, that's the last thing you want to think about," catcher Russell Martin said. "I think they're just trying to pitch to the best of their ability. It just so happens that there is a competition within the team, but that can't be your mindset when you're on the mound. You've just got to worry about, 'What pitch am I throwing next?'"

Yankees ready to let Pettitte throw BP

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Andy Pettitte had warned the Yankees that they might have to slow him down as he begins Spring Training, but after just one bullpen session, the club is ready for him to begin facing hitters.

Manager Joe Girardi said that Pettitte is slated to pitch batting practice on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, following Tuesday's impressive bullpen session, which catcher Russell Martin raved was the best he'd seen all spring.

"We just have to watch his legs," Girardi said. "[That's] the most important part. He's thrown probably eight or nine bullpens, probably more than a lot of guys had thrown when they got here."

Pettitte had been working out at his Texas home before signing with the Yankees and threw a secret 7:30 a.m. ET bullpen session last week at Steinbrenner Field, which Girardi considers to be the starting point of Pettitte's spring.

Pettitte said that he expects to need six weeks to prepare for pitching in Major League games, a timetable that Girardi agreed would be reasonable.

"It's going to be hard, but I need to take it slow," Pettitte said. "I'm glad I feel good right now, but I haven't done anything in terms of covering bases or running around. I know if I get too far ahead of myself, I could have a setback. I don't want to have that."

Swisher feels better, but Yanks in no rush

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher reported improvement with his groin injury on Wednesday morning and planned to spend most of the day receiving treatment at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Swisher had to leave Tuesday night's 10-3 exhibition win over the Pirates following his third-inning at-bat, when he grimaced running out a ground ball and felt tightness in his right groin. He suffered a similar injury last week.

"I feel better today," Swisher said. "Hopefully, we'll just take a few more days and knock this out. I'd rather be missing games now than during the season."

Swisher said that the tightness in that area may be a signal that he needs to change certain parts of his weight-room regimen. He trained differently this winter, working out with football players in Westlake, Calif., in an attempt to change his body composition.

I've never been as strong as I am now," Swisher said. "Now, it's about finding a balance that works for me."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he is no hurry to get Swisher back into the lineup, wanting to make sure that the switch-hitter is prepared for Opening Day.

"I saw him early this morning, and he said he was OK," Girardi said. "We'll just take it day by day and decide when we're going to get him back in there. There's no rush. I think Swish is in a pretty good place. If it takes a few days, it takes a few days."

Bombers bits

• Derek Jeter (sore left calf) is on track to play on Friday against the Twins in Tampa, Fla., Girardi said. David Robertson (bruised right foot) will pitch batting practice on Friday, and the Yankees expect to have Garcia (bruised right hand) on the mound on Saturday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.

• Martin said that he is currently reading a book about Michael Jordan, which has reminded him of some similarities about the way Andy Pettitte seems to go about his business. Martin hopes the Yankees' other pitchers are taking notice.

"I think they can just learn from a guy like that," Martin said. 
"He's been successful for so long. If I was one of them, I would just try to pick his brain and try to learn to see what makes him tick, what makes him so consistent."

 • Alex Rodriguez is hitting .345 with two homers and nine RBIs this spring, and Girardi has nothing but positive reviews to offer about the three-time American League Most Valuable Player.

"I think he's looked great," Girardi said. "I think when you watch him move, he's moving fine. He's swinging the bat really well. I think he's had a good spring for us. I'm pleased with where he's at right now; we just have to make sure he stays strong and doesn't get worn out in Spring Training."

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.