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2/15/2014 3:18 P.M. ET

Nova not taking rotation job for granted

TAMPA, Fla. -- Ivan Nova is expected to be in the Yankees' rotation to begin the season, but the right-hander is approaching this camp as though he still must fight for his job.

After being demoted to the Minors early last season, Nova does not want to take any chances. Nova returned to the big league squad in late June and put up solid numbers down the stretch, so he hopes to never ride a Triple-A bus again.

"I'm still in a competition. Nothing is sure," Nova said. "I know that CC [Sabathia] can be sure, [Hiroki] Kuroda, [Masahiro] Tanaka. I'm one of the young guys. I've got to be doing the best out there in the competition."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi is planning on having Nova as one of the club's five starters, but he applauded Nova's mindset.

"We expect Nova to be in our rotation, but I love that attitude," Girardi said. "You have to perform. The bottom line is it's a performance-based business, so you have to go out and perform, but I love that attitude."

Nova said that he spent most of his winter in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with his family and is looking ahead to fixing some of the inconsistency that marked his 2013 campaign. He struggled in six early-season appearances before being optioned to the Minors, which came as a surprise to him.

"You've got to prove that you can pitch in the big leagues," Nova said. "It's something you put in your mind and you work hard to do. When I took the time in the Minor Leagues again, [I was] thinking what I want to do and execute in the big leagues.

"I know I have the stuff to have success in the big leagues. I did in the past, I guess I've got to do everything together from the beginning. That's what I want to do from the first month, first start of the year."

Saying that he was more focused after the demotion, Nova returned in late June to go 7-5 with a 2.70 ERA through the end of the year. He finished the campaign with an overall 9-6 record and a 3.10 ERA.

"That's something that you've got to go through," Nova said. "I haven't seen anybody yet that's been in the big leagues, and from the first day to the last day, they're always consistent. Everybody goes through that. I'm still trying to find a way to be consistent every time. Hopefully this year is the start."

Girardi stresses patience to roster hopefuls

TAMPA, Fla. -- There are some battles on the horizon as the Yankees knock off the rust this spring, but no one is going to seal up a roster spot this early in camp.

That's the message that Joe Girardi stressed to the team's pitchers and catchers before Saturday's first workout of the year, and the manager seemed pleased that it had been absorbed.

"With the open competitions that we have here, I had some concerns about guys trying to do too much," Girardi said. "And I didn't see that today."

The Yankees went through their first paces at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday morning, with about a dozen early side sessions and eight bullpens, highlighted by the chance to see Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova from the mound.

Tanaka was the focal point of that session, held on a back field outside the main stadium. Approximately 150 reporters gathered on the dirt warning track around the fields to observe, with many fans also crowding outside the chain-link fences.

The Yankees will use the spring to iron out a fifth-starter competition from the group of Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. They also have bullpen jobs up for grabs, but nothing was being decided via Saturday's fielding practice and conditioning.

"I told the guys today, 'Now's the time to build arm strength,'" Girardi said. "That's what you're here to do. You're not going to make the team today or tomorrow or in five days, or in 10 days.

"It's not going to happen. That's been my message and I'll continue to state that -- that when you have open competition, someone doesn't get hurt and have a 10-day setback or a 15-day setback."

Recovered from surgery, Banuelos feels 'normal' again

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Manny Banuelos submitted his aching left elbow for examination in October 2012 and learned that he needed Tommy John surgery, the Yankees prospect feared that his career might already be over.

But when Banuelos returned to the mound late last season, hitting 93 and 94 mph with his fastball in simulated games, the left-hander regained his confidence. Banuelos is not only looking ahead to pitching in games, but he expects to reach the Majors this year.

"I have a chance now, and I want to work hard to get to the big leagues," said Banuelos, who turns 23 next month. "If I don't make the team here, [I will] try to get a callup soon."

Banuelos had been listed among the Yankees' brightest pitching prospects, grouped with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman to comprise the "Killer B's." Banuelos had been promoted as high as Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the club's chain before the injury limited him to just 24 innings in 2012.

"I feel normal now," Banuelos said. "After two long years, now I feel ready. I feel good after that. The rehabbing was good."

Banuelos was being developed as a starter before his injury. That is expected to continue, though the Yankees haven't been mentioning Banuelos as a serious contender for their fifth-starter battle because he hasn't faced hitters in more than a year.

He'll get that chance on Wednesday, when Banuelos is scheduled to throw live batting practice at Steinbrenner Field. Banuelos said that he "can't wait" for that, and added that he'd be open to pitching out of the bullpen if it helps him reach the big leagues.

"I don't mind if it's the bullpen or a starter," Banuelos said. "I can make both. I just want to be with the team, that's all."

Bombers bits

• Yankees catcher John Ryan Murphy is now going by his full given name, which is printed on the nameplate above his clubhouse locker. Murphy explained that his father's name is also John, so their family and friends always used middle names to differentiate between the two.

It was only when Murphy entered professional baseball that J.R. began to be used. Teammates of the 22-year-old, who played in 16 games for the Yankees last season, are just calling him "Murph."

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.