Yankees pitcher David Phelps throwing against the Atlanta Braves in...

Yankees pitcher David Phelps throwing against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning. (Feb. 23, 2013) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Joe Girardi always says he's not interested much in results this early in spring training.

David Phelps isn't either, but that doesn't mean they're irrelevant.

"Results are always going to matter to me,'' Phelps said.

And in that respect, the righthander, who is expected to battle Ivan Nova for the fifth spot in the Yankees' starting rotation, did all right Saturday.

Phelps started the exhibition opener against the Braves and allowed no runs and three hits in two innings in the Yankees' 8-3 victory.

"As of right now, I'm happy my arm felt good. I felt my stuff was where it needed to be for right now,'' Phelps said. "I was really satisfied with the way the ball was coming out. Hitting my spots is really important for me.''

Phelps went 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA last season: 2-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts and 2-2 with a 2.76 ERA in 22 relief appearances.

"Our pitchers threw strikes today,'' Girardi said. "That's what I'm concerned about early on in camp, developing that arm strength. [Phelps] threw first-pitch strikes. I thought he threw the ball OK.''


Just play him

With Derek Jeter not ready for games, the plan is for Eduardo Nuñez to start at short.

The Yankees have concerns -- often discussed, and not without reason -- about the 25-year-old's defense, but one rival talent evaluator said he simply needs to be in the lineup.

"I like him a lot,'' he said. "He can field. He just has to play. Throw him out there and let him play.''

Nunez doubled and scored in the third and lined out to third in the fifth. He successfully handled the only grounder hit his way.

Hughes progressing

Phil Hughes, sidelined all week after suffering two bulging discs while covering first base Monday, said he is off anti-inflammatories and that he will begin pool work Sunday. He probably still is a week away from starting to throw again.


Bomb squad

Robinson Cano and rightfielder Zoilo Almonte homered against the Braves. Almonte had a good first day, throwing out Reed Johnson when he tried to go from first to third in the first inning and driving in two runs with an opposite-field homer off Jordan Walden in the four-run third.

"We're excited about this kid,'' Girardi said.


Moving along

Boone Logan threw only his second bullpen session Saturday, but the lefthander said it's not because of a sore or tired arm.

"They're just taking it slow. Nothing's wrong,'' Logan said after the 25-pitch session.

Logan made a career- and team-high 80 appearances last season.


Extra bases

Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia are expected to throw live BP sessions Monday. It will be Sabathia's first and Rivera's second . . . RHP Nick Goody, a non-roster invitee, walked through the clubhouse on crutches Saturday after suffering a sprained right ankle when he was rear-ended in a traffic accident Friday night. An MRI on the ankle came back negative.

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