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3/21/2014 10:45 P.M. ET

Ellsbury tests sore calf, could play Tuesday

Outfielder runs on grass, takes on-field batting practice day after MRI

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jacoby Ellsbury tested his sore right calf by running on grass Friday, one day after the outfielder had a precautionary MRI, and the Yankees are eyeing Tuesday as his possible return date.

"He did OK. We'll see how he is [Saturday] and try to increase it a little bit," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I would say our target date is Tuesday."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that because Ellsbury's MRI came back clean, he is not worried about it affecting his readiness for the season.

Ellsbury hit on the diamond at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday, and ran arcs on the outfield grass, avoiding the dirt. Returning to action Tuesday would give Ellsbury five possible Grapefruit League games to play in before the Yankees open the season April 1 in Houston.

"I would probably try to play him four," Girardi said. "Maybe he goes to the Minor Leagues one day and gets a lot of at-bats, but that's still a game day."

Jeter OK after two foul balls off left ankle

TAMPA, Fla. -- It has been an all-too-familiar sight in the most recent Yankees springs: Derek Jeter running at less than his top speed down the first-base line, appearing to favor his left ankle.

It happened again on Friday, but everyone can exhale. The Yankees captain fouled a pair of balls off his ankle early in New York's 4-0 Grapefruit League victory over the Pirates, but Jeter said that the soreness is nothing out of the ordinary.

"It's a foul ball," Jeter said. "I wish I could give you more. I don't know what it's going to feel like [Saturday], but it's really not a big deal."

Jeter said that he iced the ankle after the game, but more telling was that he stayed in to finish playing seven innings of defense after the fouls; one off the ankle, and one off the top of the foot.

Of course, Jeter said, one of the fouls had to miss his shin guard.

"I always do," Jeter said. "I don't think I've hit it yet in 20 years, man."

Jeter was not scheduled to be on Saturday's travel roster to play the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., and manager Joe Girardi expects Jeter to be ready to play on Sunday against the Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

"You're always a little bit worried, but he got through the game. He's OK," Girardi said. "I don't expect it to be a problem. We'll see how he is [Saturday] because sometimes adrenaline carries you through, but I'm not playing him [Saturday] anyway. I expect it will be no problem Sunday."

Jeter has enjoyed a spring mostly free of health issues, but he is waiting for his timing to come around. Jeter was 0-for-3 with an RBI groundout on Friday, dropping his spring average to .122 (5-for-41) with a double and two RBIs.

"I feel all right," Jeter said. "The thing here is, in Spring Training, the thing is you want to have good at-bats and you want to hit the ball hard. I did a couple of times today. If it was the regular season, then I'd rather have two broken-bat hits.

"At this point in the spring, you just want to hit the ball hard. I think I'm progressing how I should be. We have what, another week here? You just want to continue that."

Jeter acknowledged that, after being limited to 17 games last season, it has taken longer than expected to fine-tune himself at the plate.

"Probably, but then again, I haven't played in a while," Jeter said. "The key is to be feeling pretty good toward the end of spring. I'm progressing that way. I like the steps I've made the last few days."

Ryan thinks he'll begin season on disabled list

TAMPA, Fla. -- Brendan Ryan appears likely to start the season on the disabled list, as a pair of MRIs taken on Friday revealed a pinched nerve in the Yankees infielder's upper back.

Ryan has not appeared in a game since March 4, as he was sidelined with a lower back issue. Ryan had been scheduled to return to action on Thursday against the Red Sox, but felt discomfort in a different spot during infield workouts.

"Something's pushing on a nerve, so that explains the discomfort and that electrical feeling back in there," Ryan said. "I've got a whole bunch of pills to take and hopefully everything gets freed up."

Ryan has been limited to eight at-bats this spring, and manager Joe Girardi said that if Ryan is unavailable to play by Tuesday, he would likely start the year on the DL. Ryan did not seem optimistic about his chances of being on the flight to Houston for New York's April 1 opener.

"I just don't know how you could go into the season having single digit at-bats," Ryan said.

Girardi agreed, saying that while Ryan is being considered day-to-day, he is not expected to play before next week.

Even if Ryan can return to action, Girardi said that "it will still be tough because he's only got eight at-bats, and he's not built up, and he hasn't played multiple days in a row. Starting him is in jeopardy."

If Ryan is unavailable to start the season, Girardi has indicated that he would select two infielders from the group of Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte, all of whom Girardi is confident can play shortstop.

While Stephen Drew's name is sure to pop up in speculation, given that the infielder is still on the free-agent market, general manager Brian Cashman said that the Yankees should be able to get by with their internal options.

"I think right now as long as we stay healthy, all the answers are here in camp," Cashman said. "My job is to find someone better than what we already have, if at all possible. That never changes. If he can't go, we have somebody here who will be able to do that."

Club close to naming fifth starter

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees are closing in on a decision concerning their fifth starter, and general manager Brian Cashman has been pleased with the competition.

Michael Pineda is generally thought to be the front-runner, having fired nine scoreless innings, but David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno have all stated convincing cases.

"Everyone's doing well, thankfully," Cashman said. "It's been the best of all scenarios so far, where they're making it tough. Whoever doesn't get picked will be disappointed, and they'd have a right to be."

Cashman said that he has been speaking with manager Joe Girardi and the coaching staff about the rotation, which also affects the composition of the bullpen. Girardi has suggested that the team might be ready to announce a decision by Sunday.

Yanks announce Minor League award winners

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees announced Friday that infielder Greg Bird and right-handed pitcher Shane Greene were named winners of the 2013 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees' Minor League "Player of the Year" and "Pitcher of the Year," respectively.

The two players received their awards before Friday night's game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Bird, 21, batted .288 with 36 doubles, three triples, 20 home runs and 84 RBIs in 130 games with the Class A Charleston RiverDogs. He led all Minor League players in walks (107) and finished fourth in on-base percentage (.428), while ranking second in the South Atlantic League with a .938 OPS.

Greene, 25, split the season between Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, combining to go 12-10 with a 3.38 ERA over 27 appearances (26 starts). He led all Yankees Minor Leaguers in innings pitched and wins, while ranking second in starts and third in strikeouts (137).

Bombers bits

CC Sabathia's next start is likely to come on Thursday against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., representing his final tuneup before taking the ball on Opening Day April 1 in Houston. Girardi said that Sabathia's workload would be scaled back in that start; he threw 89 pitches over seven innings on Friday.

Ivan Nova's next outing will come in a Minor League game on Monday at the club's complex in Tampa, Fla.

Kelly Johnson will get another crack at playing first base on Saturday against the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla. While Johnson is in line to serve as the Yankees' Opening Day third baseman, the Yankees also want to prepare him for backing up Mark Teixeira on the other side of the diamond.

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.