Yankees starter Bartolo Colon delivers to the plate during Monday's...

Yankees starter Bartolo Colon delivers to the plate during Monday's spring training game against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte, Fla. (Mar. 21, 2011) Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- The decision the Yankees will make soon with their final rotation opening, general manager Brian Cashman repeated Thursday, comes down to this:

The known, Freddy Garcia, vs. the unknown, Bartolo Colon.

The known started a minor-league game Thursday and did about what the group of observers -- including Cashman, senior director of pro personnel Billy Eppler and team president Randy Levine -- expected.

"He did what Freddy does," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said, "and that's change speeds. He's not going to throw two pitches at the same speed in the same spots. He's just going to keep going back and forth."

The Yankees' gun had Garcia's fastball between 83 and 86 mph, as did the gun of an opposing team's scout. Garcia's offspeed pitches mostly fluctuated between 70 and 80 mph.

Against a group of Phillies minor-leaguers, Garcia allowed one run and four hits, with no walks and three strikeouts, in six innings. He threw 67 pitches, 47 for strikes. "Typical Freddy," one scout said.

Garcia said he's been mostly pleased with his spring training. He's 1-1 with a 5.93 ERA, not off-the-charts, but better than past ones. Last year with the White Sox, he had a 10.38 ERA, an improvement over his 16.71 ERA from 2009. He went 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 157 innings for the White Sox in the regular season. "It's not my decision," he said. "They'll do what they have to do. I'd love to be here, though."

Colon, 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA, is giving the Yankees something to think about. They're trying to project how a 37-year-old who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009 will hold up.

"It's impossible," Rothschild said. "It's the unknown, but you know what we've seen, and it's been good. There's no one that's going to be able to answer that until we get into the season and see." Rothschild later said, "From what I've seen, he can help a major-league team, without a doubt."

The safe bet, at least at the start of the season, is Garcia ends up at as the fifth starter and Colon heads to the bullpen, or maybe an assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Garcia said last week he would not accept a minor- league assignment but would take a bullpen role, even though it's not his preference. It will be decided in the coming days.

"I don't have a scheduled meeting,'' Cashman said, "but clearly we're going to have to make decisions on this sooner than later, because we have to set the roles so we can properly prepare these guys come Thursday of next week."

Notes & quotes: Gustavo Molina, 29, with 13 starts at catcher since 2007, caught Garcia instead of Jesus Montero, who has struggled in recent weeks. "Molina was brought in to be an insurance policy for us," Cashman said. "That's why he's here; he's got major-league time.". . . Cashman said he assumes Nick Swisher, who fouled a ball off the instep of his left foot Wednesday night, is OK. "No one's called me to tell me otherwise," he said . . . Cashman said he's "had some conversations" with other GMs in recent days, more indicative of the time of year rather than something being in the works. "This last 10 days [of camp], there's a lot of conversations," he said. "Everybody's just picking up the phone and checking in with each other, myself included."

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