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Masahiro Tanaka likely to start Opening Day, but Joe Girardi won't announce it yet

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka delivers

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka delivers a pitch during the first inning of a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves on March 12, 2015 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - It seems all but certain that Masahiro Tanaka will start on Opening Day, but Joe Girardi is not willing to announce that until he is sure the righthander is healthy enough.

Tanaka, who will pitch Wednesday against the Mets, already is lined up for April 6. He threw a 36-pitch bullpen session Sunday in Tampa.

"It'll be a great thing if a pitcher's able to pitch on Opening Day," Tanaka said through his translator. "But for me, obviously I got hurt last season, so my main goal here is to try to have a healthy season throughout the year."

Tanaka is pitching with a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Said Girardi: "I've just got to see where the guys are at."

That includes CC Sabathia, who has started the last six Yankees openers. The lefthander allowed four runs (including three home runs, one an inside-the-parker) in 22/3 innings to the Mets Sunday in his second exhibition outing.

Sabathia, who is returning from knee surgery, is a week behind Tanaka. Sabathia repeatedly has said it won't bother him if he doesn't start the opener.

"I think CC understands the big picture," Girardi said. "The big picture is that he's ready to go and he's healthy."

Girardi also said he is not close to naming a closer -- either Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller -- because "it really hasn't been a worry of mine . . . I don't think it's necessary to name 'you're going to be our closer.' "

He also said it's "possible" he will go into the season without a designated closer.

Ellsbury update

Girardi said Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) will resume baseball activities next week. "He's better," he said. "He's doing a lot of conditioning." Ellsbury last played on March 15.

With Joey Knight in Tampa

New York Sports