03/10/2013 5:14 PM ET
Phelps, Nova pushing each other for No. 5 spot
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The competition for the final spot in the Yankees' starting rotation has flown somewhat under the radar this spring given all their other injuries and issues, but David Phelps and Ivan Nova are making it interesting.
Phelps made perhaps his most convincing case yet Sunday, tossing five scoreless innings with three hits, a walk and three strikeouts in a 3-0 win over the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. He lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to a minuscule 0.64 and showed off what he felt to be his strongest curveball and slider of the spring against most of Toronto's everyday players.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Phelps looks like a more confident pitcher, one who knows he belongs in the Majors. And he should, after throwing 99 2/3 innings over 33 games (11 starts) with a 3.34 ERA last year. But Nova has pitched well in his two starts, too, allowing only one run on four hits and a walk while striking out three. Nova will start Tuesday against the Rays.
"They're matching each other basically inning for inning, in a sense, start for start," Girardi said. "That's a good problem to have."
For his part, Phelps said he's just focused on making the Yankees' roster, whether he lands in the rotation or in the bullpen. He has proven he can do both, whereas Nova doesn't have that kind of experience in the bullpen. After going 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011, Nova took a step back in 2012, posting a 5.02 ERA.
"If he wanted to pitch bad enough, he could learn [to pitch in the bullpen]," Girardi said. "[Phelps' success] should push him, yeah, but I would think that the struggles that [Nova] had is probably the bigger factor."
Either way, they're not making the Yankees' decision any easier. Phelps put forth another strong display of what he can do Sunday. Now, it's Nova's turn to keep up on Tuesday.
"We're not treating it like a competition. Everyone's out there just trying to make an impression," Phelps said. "If we're pushing each other, then it's a good thing."
Sabathia set to make spring debut on Friday
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- CC Sabathia threw 50 pitches in a four-inning simulated game Sunday morning at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., and the next time he steps on that mound will be Friday, his Grapefruit League debut.
Sabathia, who had surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow last October, threw 50 pitches to Corban Joseph and Zoilo Almonte, and he figures to throw about 65 on Friday, when the Yankees host the Marlins.
"Felt good today, no problems. I felt strong. I'm ready to go," Sabathia said. "I'm working pretty hard and trying to throw all my pitches and make it as game-like as possible. I'm getting good work out of it."
The big left-hander hasn't had to see a doctor since he reported to Spring Training, and his throwing elbow hasn't bothered him at all during his last two throwing sessions. Sabathia said he threw a little bit harder Sunday than he had before this spring.
"Hopefully, I can just keep getting stronger, velocity gets better every time and I'll have something to work with instead of 88 [mph] this year," Sabathia said.
The Yankees will need more from Sabathia this year. After losing a few big bats to free agency, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson for about a month because of injuries and Alex Rodriguez for at least half the season, the Bombers will be more dependent upon their pitching than any time in recent memory.
So it's no surprise much of that falls on Sabathia, the Yankees' ace and workhorse, in addition to veterans Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda.
"I feel like we needed to keep the runs down and pitch well anyway, so this is no added pressure," Sabathia said. "I think we as a staff put a lot of pressure on ourselves to pitch well because we know the team's only going to go as far as the pitching takes it.
"So we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. With the injuries, it's just one of those things where we're going to have to go out and pitch a little better."
Logan making progress with sore left elbow
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Left-hander Boone Logan threw off of flat ground Sunday before tossing a few pitches in the bullpen, another welcome bit of good news for the Yankees on the injury front.
Logan has been dealing with a sore left elbow but said he only felt typical arm soreness afterward, adding, "I'll take that any day.
"It's too early to get excited, but everything feels good," Logan said. "I don't think it should take long."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Logan is scheduled to pitch in the bullpen a few more times and throw batting practice before they determine what comes next. Girardi said Logan still has enough time to be ready to pitch Opening Day.
"He's going in the right direction," Girardi said.
• Derek Jeter, who made his Spring Training debut Saturday, is expected to play again Monday against the Cardinals at George M. Steinbrenner Field. He will once again serve as the Yankees' designated hitter, but he could get his first start at shortstop as soon as Wednesday.
• Girardi said closer Mariano Rivera, who had a busy day Saturday between announcing his upcoming retirement and making his Grapefruit League debut, was feeling good Sunday after pitching in a game for the first time since April 30, 2012. Rivera will likely throw a bullpen session on Monday and then make his second Spring Training appearance a few days after that.
• Girardi unveiled his starting pitching schedule for the upcoming week. The Yankees will start Kuroda on Monday, Ivan Nova on Tuesday, Andy Pettitte on Wednesday (his first Spring Training start), Sabathia on Friday, Kuroda in the early game on Saturday and David Phelps in the late game and Nova on Sunday.
Girardi didn't know who would start Thursday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. That could mean another start for Adam Warren or Jose Ramirez.
• Right-handers Phil Hughes (bulging disk in upper back) and David Aardsma (groin) are scheduled to throw bullpen sessions on Monday. Both pitchers threw in the bullpen on Saturday.