TAMPA, Fla. -- Hiroki Kuroda was reassured by his solid start Saturday, even though his status never has been in question. The manager has made it certain from the opening of camp: Kuroda's place in the Yankees' rotation is secure.
His place in the clubhouse might be another matter.
Kuroda, it turns out, has Andy Pettitte's old spring training locker. Like everything else in the Yankees' universe, especially in their pitching solar system, that locker is subject to change now that Pettitte is back in the fold.
"I'll move out from there," Kuroda said through an interpreter. Both he and the interpreter laughed. Kuroda added that he would give up his No. 18, too, if Pettitte ever wanted to change his customary No. 46.
There will not be any need for that, naturally. But just about everything else relating to starting pitching is up for grabs now that Pettitte has agreed to come back from a year of retirement and pitch again for the Yankees. The stakes will be higher for the four pitchers currently competing for three spots, and possibly for Kuroda, too.
His name surfaced plenty in the Pettitte frenzy Friday. General manager Brian Cashman spoke of having told Pettitte to shut down his comeback hopes after the Yankees signed Kuroda as a free agent and traded for Michael Pineda. Pettitte kept working out anyway and ultimately signed a minor-league contract.
"I know he's a great pitcher, he's got great numbers. I'm looking forward to him coming to the team," Kuroda said. When he was asked how it will affect him, he added, "What I'm going to is to prepare myself for the regular season, so preparation-wise, it's not going to change anything."
He looked prepared for the Astros in the Yankees' 6-3 win Saturday. His slider and splitter were efficient and effective as he threw 59 pitches, 49 for strikes, in four innings (allowing a run, three hits and no walks with two strikeouts).
"I'm not a power pitcher. I don't strike out a lot of hitters, so the less pitches, the better," he said. "I try to get a lot of foul balls, and with my command today, I think I was able to do that."
What remains to be seen is how much control other Yankees pitchers will have over their fate if the 39-year-old Pettitte looks strong in a comeback that will begin Tuesday.
For instance, there is Freddy Garcia, who got the wrap off his bruised pitching hand and played catch Saturday. Who knows where he stands now?
"When you play for the Yankees, nothing surprises you," Garcia said Saturday morning. "I don't really care. That's their decision. I have to pitch."
So what does he think of the signing? "I don't know. Ask the people," Garcia said, meaning Yankees people.
One of those, Joe Girardi, said, "My message would be, if you don't want someone to take your job, pitch well. It's not like Andy is going to break camp with us April 6."
Still, the manager acknowledged that someone could pitch well and still lose his starting job.
Ivan Nova -- who knows the feeling, having been sent to the minors to make room for Phil Hughes during a 16-4 season in 2011 -- is not worried. "I always say that I'm in competition. It doesn't matter if I win 20 games, I'm going to be in competition," he said.
He added that he had a nice chat with Pettitte last October when the then-former Yankee encouraged him before his postseason debut.
Nova is not afraid of Pettitte's arrival as a rival. "You know what? I feel more excited," he said. "I know you've got to do more. One way or another, it's going to help you."