Will Yankees make Michael Pineda fifth starter or play it safe with him?

Yankees' pitcher Michael Pineda works out at Steinbrenner

Yankees' pitcher Michael Pineda works out at Steinbrenner Field on the morning of Feb. 20, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

PANAMA CITY - Joe Girardi said he thinks the Yankees could reach a decision on their fifth starter "maybe by the end of next week.''

General manager Brian Cashman, speaking to reporters in Tampa Sunday morning, didn't tip his hand regarding a leader in the four-way competition but said Michael Pineda very much is in consideration.

"He's in full-bore competition to make this team, no doubt,'' Cashman said of Pineda, who has not allowed a run and has struck out nine in 4 2/3 innings in two appearances.

It is not a secret that as spring training began, more than a few in the organization wanted to see Pineda go out and put a stranglehold on the fifth starter's spot. But there also has been speculation that the Yankees might go the safe route with the righthander -- who missed much of the previous two years recovering from shoulder surgery -- and have him start the season in the minors.

The other candidates in the competition -- David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuño -- have all pitched well at points in spring training, but Cashman had an idea what to expect from them. Pineda, who has not pitched in a big-league game since 2011, was another matter.

"He feels good, makes us feel good,'' Cashman said. "He's in spring training mode, just knocking rust out and getting it going. It's exciting to think at some point here we'll be seeing a guy that can help us at the major-league level. Obviously, we all know what he was before the injury, and he's making us believe that we have a chance to get back to seeing that again.''

 

Banuelos sent down

Manny Banuelos was optioned to Class A Tampa on Sunday, but Girardi said it was a victory for the lefthander to get back on the mound after missing all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

"It was good just to see him on the mound competing,'' said Girardi, who didn't rule out the possibility of Banuelos helping the club at some point during the season.

 

Extra bases

Derek Jeter's rough start at the plate continued. After going 0-for-3 Saturday night, he went 0-for-3 -- two grounders to second and a strikeout -- with a walk to drop his average to .133 (4-for-30) . . . Francisco Cervelli, sought after by several teams that need catching help, went 3-for-3 to raise his average to .480.

With David Lennon in Tampa, Fla.

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