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Joe Girardi focused on naming fifth starter

Yankees manager Joe Girardi looks on during bating

Yankees manager Joe Girardi looks on during bating practice before the start of a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves on March 12, 2015 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. Credit: Getty Images / Brian Blanco

VIERA, Fla. - Joe Girardi has said throughout spring training that he's in no rush to name a closer.

"It's not on the top of my priority list,'' he said Monday.

What is atop that list?

Naming a fifth starter, which could happen "by the end of this week,'' Girardi said before the Yankees' 7-6 loss to the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium.

Girardi and his staff will choose among Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers, the two favorites in the battle, and long-shot candidates Chase Whitley, Scott Baker and Bryan Mitchell, who started Monday.

"We talked about it yesterday some,'' Girardi said of the competition. "We're still going to let it play out. As we said, we're going to evaluate their last couple of starts.''

Mitchell, 23, is likely to start the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as rotation insurance. He was charged with two runs and gave up four hits and two walks in 31/3 innings. Both of those runs scored when lefty Chasen Shreve allowed a two-out single by lefthanded-hitting Nationals starter Doug Fister.

More than a few opposing team scouts have suggested that the Yankees just stick the young righty in the rotation and let him grow there. After the game, Girardi didn't dismiss Mitchell from the competition.

"I think this kid's got a pretty high ceiling,'' he said. "We're still going to look at him as we move forward here. There's a chance he's going to get another start. There's stuff there.''

Lefthander Chris Capuano, who signed a one-year deal for $5 million in the offseason, entered camp as the likely fifth starter, but he will miss the beginning of the regular season after suffering a Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps March 11.

Rogers, who has a 2.89 ERA in five appearances (three starts), is scheduled to start Tuesday night against the Blue Jays. After Masahiro Tanaka goes Wednesday against the Mets, Warren is likely to start Thursday in Port Charlotte against the Rays.

Warren, 27, has been the most consistent of the group, posting a 2.77 ERA in four starts. His value as a reliever, however, might work against him in the competition. The Yankees could decide the righthander is a bigger help in the back of the bullpen, where he shined last season.

Rogers, incorporating some of the mechanical tweaks he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild worked on during the offseason, also has been impressive.

"I think everybody's been throwing the ball great,'' said Brian McCann, who caught Mitchell Monday and homered. "It's been a really good camp for a lot of guys.''

Girardi would prefer to name a fifth starter by week's end for a couple of reasons. He would like to set him up so he's pitching every fifth day going into the season. Also, it is a safe assumption that if neither Warren nor Rogers gets the job, both probably will end up in the bullpen, and Girardi would like to give them time to adjust.

"It's how the 12 pieces fit together and who we feel gives us the best chance to be successful,'' Girardi said of all the factors going into the decision on the fifth starter. "You have to look at what you have, how the whole staff works together.''

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