TAMPA, Fla. — With six games to go in the exhibition season, the fog is lifting somewhat around the Yankees’ starting rotation.
Manager Joe Girardi said on Friday that CC Sabathia, who allowed two runs in 5 1⁄3 innings in the Yankees’ 3-2 win over the Phillies, will start the second game of the season on April 4 at Tampa Bay after Masahiro Tanaka pitches the opener on April 2.
Michael Pineda will slot in as the No. 3 starter, Girardi said.
Why that order? “Right, left, right,” Girardi said. “CC had a pretty good year last year.”
Spots four and five remain open. Luis Cessa and his 6.52 spring training ERA was removed from the equation on Friday when the Yankees sent him and five other players to the minor-league camp.
Luis Severino, who entered spring training as a favorite but has faltered, struck out five in three perfect innings of relief Friday and lowered his ERA to 3.95. Because the Yankees are keeping him stretched out as a starter, Severino threw even more pitches in the bullpen after the game.
Severino was much more effective out of the bullpen than as a starter in 2016, but the Yankees say they are committed to having him in the rotation — either in the big leagues or with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Because there are only six games to go before the Yankees break camp, Girardi will have to be creative to give starts to the other rotation candidates. That begins Saturday, with Pineda’s scheduled start against the Blue Jays shifted to a minor-league game so Adam Warren can face Toronto.
Bryan Mitchell will start on Sunday against Tampa Bay. The Yankees are off Monday, and then the sprint to the season opener will begin.
Girardi said he has not decided whether lefthander Jordan Montgomery will get another start. Montgomery impressed the manager by striking out eight Rays in 4 1⁄3 innings on Thursday in his first start of spring training, but there might not be time to give the 24-year-old another opportunity.
As for Sabathia, he was pleased with his outing despite giving up 11 baserunners (nine hits, one walk, one hit by pitch). He was helped when Aaron Judge threw out a runner at the plate to end the fourth.
“I feel like I’m healthy and ready to go,” said Sabathia, who has a 6.75 ERA.
Another cut for Frazier. The other players sent out were outfielders Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler and Billy McKinney, first baseman Ji-Man Choi and pitcher Jason Gurka.
Frazier made headlines for his flowing red hair (and the Yankees’ suggestion that he cut it, which he did to great social media fanfare). But Girardi just saw a baseball player.
“I thought he made progress in camp,” Girardi said of Frazier, who hit .308 with a home run and eight RBIs. “I thought he made progress defensively. I thought he made progress offensively. I thought he fit in really well. Plays hard. Like what we have. I think he really wanted to talk about himself as a baseball player instead of his hair all the time. He took care of that. I think the focus was on his play more than anything else after that. I think he handled it pretty well. He’s a young man that’s got a little style to him, and that’s OK.”
Notes & quotes: Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher and Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett were on the field before the game . . . Dellin Betances made his first appearance since returning from the World Baseball Classic and retired two batters . . . Tyler Clippard returned from his stint with the champion U.S. team in the WBC.