3/14/2014 5:35 P.M. ET
McCann skipping trip to catch Tanaka, Kuroda
By Jim Hawkins / Special to MLB.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- From the moment Brian McCann first heard that the Yankees would be playing in Panama this weekend, he was looking forward to the trip. On Wednesday, McCann was told he would have to stay home.
There were two reasons why manager Joe Girardi decided McCann would not be traveling to Panama: Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.
Tanaka is scheduled to face the Braves in Tampa on Sunday and Kuroda will start against the Pirates in Bradenton on Monday. Girardi wants McCann to catch them both.
With Opening Day just 18 days away, McCann has not yet caught Tanaka in a game.
"That's the reason I'm staying back," McCann said.
The seven-time All-Star was behind the plate at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday when those Yankees who did not make the trip to Panama played the Minnesota Twins.
"It would have been a great trip, but I'm not upset that I'm staying back," McCann said. "I'll catch both those guys. It made more sense to stay back here.
"I'll catch each of them [Tanaka and Kuroda] two more times. I'll get more acclimated with both of them. I'll get two more starts with each of them, then we'll be ready to go. That's plenty to feel comfortable when the season starts."
Backup catcher Francisco Cervelli, who caught Tanaka in his first two exhibition games this spring, replaced McCann on the Yankees' traveling squad to Panama.
McCann said he doesn't expect the language barrier between him and the two Japanese pitchers to be a problem. He caught Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami in 2009-'10 with the Atlanta Braves.
"They're professionals, they know what to do," McCann said of Tanaka and Kuroda. "It's baseball. Everybody knows the key words to get the job done. They know 'fastball.' They know "curveball.' We're good. If the season was to start tomorrow we'd be ready to go."
Asked if he has learned any Japanese, McCann grinned. "I'm getting there," he said.
McCann is making a concerted effort this spring to get acquainted with all of the Yankees' pitchers, especially the starters.
"I'm catching quite a bit," he said. "I need to see everybody multiple times. I know what everybody throws. I know what their stuff is. They need to be comfortable delivering a pitch. That's the important thing to me: Executing the pitch."
Phelps still confident after shaky outing
TAMPA, Fla. -- David Phelps knew his four innings of work on Friday were not exactly what the Yankees' front office wanted to see. Still, he was pleased with his performance.
"I know they want results," he said. "But it's more about getting built up right now. I went five innings last time, so I felt like I short-changed myself today. I just didn't put guys away ... 75 pitches in four innings will kill our bullpen. I've got to pitch more efficiently."
Phelps, who is locked in a battle with Michael Pineda, Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren for the fifth spot in the Yankees' starting rotation, struck out four and walked one as the Yankees fell to the Minnesota Twins, 7-3, at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
"He made some good pitches when he needed to, and he didn't make some pitches," said acting manager Rob Thomson.
"We've seen year in and year out that if we want to be successful, it takes more than five starters to win," Phelps said.
If Phelps doesn't make the starting rotation, he could also be useful in the bullpen as a middle-inning reliever or an eighth-inning setup man. But he isn't thinking about that now.
"Until they take the ball out of my hand as a starter, I'm going to prepare like a starter," Phelps said.
The 27-year-old Phelps, who missed 62 games last season with a right forearm strain, was 6-5 in 22 games (12 of them starts) with the Yankees.
Despite struggles, Teixeira happy with progress
TAMPA, Fla. -- Mark Teixeira went 1-for-2 Friday and now has two base hits, a single and a double to his credit in 12 spring at-bats. Although he is hitting only .167, the Yankees first baseman could hardly be happier with the way his spring is going.
"I was optimistic, but I didn't know what to expect," admitted Teixeira, who missed all but 15 games of last season with a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist. "I didn't know if I'd have to take days off or what."
He remained in Tampa this weekend while many of the Yankees traveled to Panama, so that he would have full use of the team's training room facilities at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Teixeira, who will turn 34 next month, is determined to demonstrate he can again be the player he was for the Yankees from 2009-'11, when he averaged 157 games, 37 home runs, 35 doubles, 114 RBIs and 102 runs.
"I'm very happy, real happy about the way my wrist feels and the way it's bounced back from the increased workload," said Teixeira, who has been somewhat overlooked this spring amidst all the attention that has been focused on pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury.
And that's fine with Teixeira.
"I really couldn't be happier with how I feel right now," he said. "I obviously need more work, but so far, so good. I'm taking good swings. My BP's are solid. I'm right on schedule."
Acting manager Rob Thomson agreed.
"He looks great, he really does," he said. "He's not there yet, but he looks like he's got his normal Spring Training bat speed."
• The first three Yankee batters got hits and scored Friday -- then they didn't get another hit or score another run the rest of the game.
• Left-hander Vidal Nuno, who is vying for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, will make his second official start of the spring on Saturday against the Orioles in Sarasota. Nuno also started the Feb. 25 game against Florida State. Right-handers Brian Gordon, Mark Montgomery, Shane Greene and Danny Burawa will also make the trip to Sarasota.
• Acting manager Rob Thomson said after the game that he didn't think the play on which Eduardo Nunez was kicked was intentional.
"He [Chris Colabello] looked like he was running like he didn't know there were two outs," Thomson said. "I just didn't want that thing to stiffen up [on Nunez], that's why I took it upon myself to get him out of there."
• Russ Canzler was scratched from the starting lineup at third base Friday for precautionary reasons because of hip stiffness. He was replaced by Rob Segedin. Thomson said the stiffness was the result of a play Canzler made in Thursday's game.
"I was hitting ground balls to him before the game and he didn't look like he was moving the way he should," Thomson said.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.