03/24/12 6:41 PM ET
Girardi optimistic Joba will pitch this season
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
The Yankees manager based that assessment on hearing a report that the 26-year-old right-hander will soon be released from St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa and that a CT scan showed no microfractures.
"I guess he's going to get out Sunday. And that's just precautionary. The biggest fear now is just the infection. There's no more surgeries planned," Girardi said. "There were no microfractures. That's a good thing. You get a little concerned when that happens that there might be some little fractures. But there were none. We're happy about that. Now he's just got to heal."
Earlier in the day, before the team bus left Tampa for what turned out to be a 4-2 Grapefruit League win over the Tigers in 10 innings at Joker Marchant Stadium, general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that Chamberlain, based on the doctors' assessment, thought he could be on a mound again by July.
Cashman seemed to try to lower expectations.
"That's the optimistic side," he said. "The way I work this stuff, my mindset is, until they're close to knocking on the door, I [don't worry about it]. Obviously, in Joba's case, it's still a question of when he comes back. I just hope we're in a position where he can come back."
After hearing the MRI and CT results, though, Girardi said the possibility of Chamberlain throwing by July might not be that far-fetched.
"Well, if you're talking July 1 to July 15 to July 25, there's a big difference there," Girardi said. "He's going to be in a cast, I think, for six weeks. Then you start rehabbing. Six weeks is going to take you to, what, May 10? So I don't necessarily think that's out of the question.
"Maybe he goes in a walking boot a little more after that. We're going to stay positive about it. That's my nature. We're not going to rush him, because that's a very important leg. That's the push-off leg. So if we see he's not pushing off correctly, we'll back him down. But we've got to get to that point first. So far, so good. It's not where we want to be, but he's been good so far."
The Yankees hadn't expected Chamberlain, who is also recovering from Tommy John surgery, to be back in the Yankee Stadium bullpen until June.
Garcia pleases skipper with stellar outing
LAKELAND, Fla. -- There are four pitchers vying for three spots in the Yankees' rotation. Freddy Garcia is doing all he can to make sure he's not left standing when this baseball version of musical chairs ends.
The 35-year-old right-hander dominated the Tigers in 4 1/3 shutout innings at Joker Marchant Stadium on Saturday. He allowed just one hit, walked two and struck out four to lower his Grapefruit League ERA to 2.92.
"Freddy was great," manager Joe Girardi said after the Yankees' 4-2, 10-inning win. "Everything -- the slow curve ball he used to get ahead in the count sometimes, he located his fastball, his split was good, backdoor slider to lefties. He had it all, and we got him to  pitches. I was very pleased."
Officially, the Yankees have committed to just two starters: CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. Garcia is competing with Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda -- with Andy Pettitte, who is attempting a comeback on a Minor League contract, on the edge of the picture.
"I like competition. It keeps me thinking straight and concentrating better," Garcia said with a laugh. "I just have to worry about myself and go out there and pitch. I'm glad I pitched good."
Garcia was making his first official start in 10 days after being hit on the right hand by a batted ball against Toronto on March 14. That didn't bother him. Neither did being struck on the right thigh by a comebacker off the bat of Jhonny Peralta in the third, the only hit he allowed.
First home run lifts weight off Ibanez
LAKELAND, Fla. -- It was only one hit. It was only Spring Training. And Raul Ibanez has been around long enough to understand that.
Still, nobody likes to be hitting .051, which is what his average was when he stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on in the seventh inning of a scoreless tie against the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium on Saturday.
So he admitted that, yes, jumping on a first-pitch fastball from Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer and driving it over the center-field fence was pretty doggone nice.
"It felt good to be able to make a left turn instead of a right turn. It definitely felt good," he said.
Manager Joe Girardi said Ibanez, signed to be the team's designated hitter against right-handed pitching, was starting to press.
"I think that's just the human factor we all deal with," Girardi said. "We want to do well. And when you don't do well, you get a little upset about it and you don't like it. And I think sometimes you put a little on your shoulders. It's good for him to get that hit for us and drive the ball the way he's capable of doing. You see a guy [exhale] a little bit."
Said Ibanez: "As an athlete, you always want to show [a new team] what you can do. And also show yourself. So I think that's human nature. Not to impress, but just to do your job right."
The 39-year-old didn't play on Friday, spending the time getting in extra work with hitting coach Kevin Long and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.
"We spent a lot of time out there," Ibanez said. "And, again, it's one at-bat. But the feel was much better than it had been. I felt much better. I felt like I was in a better position to hit and a better position to take a good swing."
With the Yankees facing Tigers left-hander Duane Below on Sunday, Ibanez will play in a Minor League game and get "as many at-bats as he wants," according to Girardi.
Leyland lavishes praise on Cano
LAKELAND, Fla. -- When Robinson Cano was a second-year player batting at the bottom of the Yankees' lineup in 2006, Tigers manager Jim Leyland described it as "Murderer's Row, and then Cano."
He already had a lot of respect then, and it has grown over the years. So when Cano was part of the Yankees' travel squad for their first meeting with the Tigers, Leyland was effusive with his praise.
"I think I have as much respect for Robinson Cano as an opposing player as any player I've managed against," Leyland said Saturday morning. "I just think he's so special. I'm not going to get into some formal dissertation about it. I just think he, to me, is a great, great, great player.
"I've just never seen anybody [with] just a flick of the bat, the ball's in the upper deck. He just flicks the ball and it's coming over there like a missile. And he does it so smooth, so easy. It's almost like it's effortless."
Leyland also said he appreciates the calmness Cano displays while playing under the spotlight of New York.
Leyland appreciates him better, he said, when he doesn't have to face him.
"I don't really pass that much praise out to opposing players," Leyland said. "But let me put it this way: When he's playing against the other teams in the American League, I really enjoy watching him play. If I'm just sitting, watching a game, and they're not playing us, I really enjoy watching him hit, watching him play the game. I do."
-- Jason Beck
Catcher Francisco Cervelli left Saturday's game after being hit in the left shin by a pitch in the seventh inning, but he was not seriously injured. "He's fine," manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees are off Monday, but Phil Hughes, trying to earn a spot in the rotation, will start a Minor League game.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.