TAMPA, Fla. - They are the outsiders, a trio of what Joe Girardi calls "under the radar" pitchers, each trying to make a case for the fifth spot in the Yankees' rotation.
Though the chances are slim - and that might even be a generous evaluation - that one of them will beat out Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes, all pitched effectively in yesterday's 6-3 victory over the Pirates at Steinbrenner Field.
Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves each threw two scoreless innings, with Andrew McCutchen's infield single off Gaudin the only hit.
"You'd love everyone to compete at a very high level and make our decisions very tough, that's what you want," Girardi said afterward.
The manager said that despite the media crush surrounding Chamberlain and Hughes after virtually every bullpen or live batting practice session, he doesn't feel the need to remind Gaudin, Mitre and Aceves that they're still in the race.
"They know and we told them coming in it was an open competition," Girardi said. "I don't think I need to remind them."
Said Gaudin: "They said it's open. There's five guys fighting for a fifth spot, so you just go out there and compete and do your job and the rest is up to them."
With Chan Ho Park's addition to the bullpen, Gaudin, Mitre and Aceves not only are fighting for a rotation spot but also for roster spots. The three are similar in that they can spot start and throw long relief. "There's a lot of depth there," Girardi said.
Gaudin, 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 appearances, including six starts, with the Yankees last season, said his focus isn't only on winning the fifth spot.
"I have to make sure I'm ready for the season and make sure that everything I do out on the mound is sound," Gaudin said. "The competition is there but I'm not focusing on beating other guys out, I'm focusing on getting outs quick and keeping the team in the game and working what I need to work on to get ready for the season."
Although none of the pitchers hurt his chances yesterday, Girardi said a bad performance by all or any of them wouldn't have been a deal-breaker.
"You want to see guys develop arm strength and you don't want to judge them too early," Girardi said. "You don't want to see any one outing too early seal anyone's fate because they're not as sharp as they're going to be in two weeks.
" . . . But they know they're all fighting for that fifth spot and they're going to go out and compete. We're not going to make our decision right away but I know they're going to compete, and that's OK."
Competing in some degree of anonymity, which is also fine with Girardi.
"There seems to be so much talk about Hughes and Chamberlain, these other guys are kind of under the radar a little bit, which is not always a bad place to be," Girardi said.
"But we're going to do what's best for our club. When you put on this uniform, it's a lot about what are we going to do this year? So we're going to do what we think is best. We're going to let it play itself out."