Bartolo Colon, competing for a spot in the Yankees' starting...

Bartolo Colon, competing for a spot in the Yankees' starting rotation, arrives for spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. (Feb. 14, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. - Larry Rothschild likes what he sees from much of the Yankees' pitching staff, but he's been around long enough to know that only limited information can be gleaned from bullpen sessions and live batting practice. And, for that matter, from games.

"It's always good to see guys throwing the ball well early in the spring, but I've seen a lot of guys throw the ball early in spring and then not throw it well when the season starts," the first-year Yankees pitching coach said. "And I've seen more of the other way, where guys don't throw that well, the season starts and all of a sudden it's a whole different ballgame."

Still, the evaluation process begins in earnest Saturday as, nearly two weeks after pitchers and catchers reported and after a week of full-squad workouts, the Yankees begin Grapefruit League play against the Phillies, who will start Cole Hamels.

Preceding the game will be the formal dedication of the bronze statue of George Steinbrenner that sits outside the stadium that bears his name.

"It kind of gets monotonous," Nick Swisher said of workouts. "You're doing the same thing every single day. I don't want to face these guys anymore. The way Philly and New York have gotten the rivalry going, it's going to be a lot of fun. Should be a packed house, especially with the Mr. Steinbrenner [ceremony]. It's going to be great."

While hitters - Joe Girardi said he will start all of his regulars except catcher Russell Martin - will be happy to face pitchers wearing a different uniform, the focus for much of spring training will be on the Yankees' pitching staff. Questions abound, starting with the back end of the rotation.

One of those in competition for a spot is 37-year-old Bartolo Colon, who will get a chance to gain an edge, albeit a small one, on the other contenders Saturday. The righthander, who hasn't pitched in a major league game since 2009, will start against the Phillies and throw about 35 pitches, Girardi said.

Among the other pitchers scheduled to throw are Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Hector Noesi and David Phelps. The latter two are long-shot candidates to earn a rotation spot.

Bench coach Tony Peña managed Colon in winter ball and said the pitcher was worth bringing to camp. "He moved the ball in and out, hit his spots, and his velocity with his fastball was up to 94," Peña said Friday. "Threw a decent changeup."

Rothschild said Colon has been "throwing the ball pretty well" but added, "We'll see in the game where the stuff is."

Girardi said the early games likely won't sink anyone, but without question, the evaluation process can begin. "You have to be patient knowing that guys are still getting in shape, may not quite have the arm strength they'd have in another three, four weeks, when their stuff should improve," he said. "But obviously, you're going to watch closer now how [they throw].''

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