TAMPA, Fla. —
Joe Girardi announced his Opening Day starter Thursday, and to the surprise of no one, it will be Masahiro Tanaka. The order of the three starting pitchers to follow also were announced, as well as two bullpen spots and the backup catcher. CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, however, were left dangling in regard to the fifth starter’s job.
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Has any part of the process rubbed Sabathia the wrong way? “No,” he said. “It’s part of it. I just came here trying to get healthy and get ready to have a good season. Hopefully I get a chance to do that.”
Sabathia posted a 5.51 ERA in five starts to Nova’s 4.13 in six starts during spring training. Girardi didn’t dispute the notion that Sabathia has emerged as the leader for the job, but Nova’s six shutout innings Wednesday against the Braves made the club ponder the decision a bit longer.
“You can surmise what you want,” said Girardi, who will put the loser of the competition in the bullpen.
Because the Yankees won’t need a fifth starter until April 9 in Detroit, Girardi said “there’s no rush” on a decision.
“I would have liked to have known on March 1 who our five starters were,” Girardi said. “It just didn’t present itself that way this year. Every game’s important and it’s an important decision and that’s why we’re [taking our time]. I know it’s a big announcement because of who is involved, but there’s really no rush.”
Sabathia, who said he felt good about his spring because “I came out of it healthy,” didn’t discount the idea that the longer the team takes to make a decision, the worse it looks for him.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I threw a bullpen today. I’m ready to go whenever they tell me.”
Girardi disclosed the order of the rotation the first time through, except for the fifth starter. Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino will follow Tanaka. Girardi also said rookie righthanders Johnny Barbato and Luis Cessa have made the bullpen, leaving one spot open, and named Austin Romine as Brian McCann’s backup.
Pineda did not distinguish himself in his final tuneup. He allowed six runs and seven hits, including four home runs, in five innings in Thursday’s 9-1 loss to the Cardinals. The sunny afternoon featured a steady wind blowing out.
“I felt pretty good today,” said Pineda, who came through spring training healthy. “A couple [fly balls], I didn’t think they were homers but they were homers . . . but I’m ready.”