Adam Warren of the Yankees pitches against the Boston Red...

Adam Warren of the Yankees pitches against the Boston Red Sox. (March 22, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Joe Girardi said the odd man out in the rotation derby won’t necessarily end up as a reliever. “There’s no guarantee the sixth starter goes to the bullpen,” he said.

That was one reason he had D.J. Mitchell come out of the bullpen Thursday night — and part of the reason he had David Phelps start the Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Orioles.

Girardi has been impressed with Mitchell, Phelps and Adam Warren, assumed to be three-fifths of the Triple-A rotation, and said one of them could be the Yankees’ long man to start the season or a possibility for that role if attrition necessitates it at some point in the season.

“When you start looking at Phelps and Warren and Mitchell, they could all be candidates,” Girardi said.

Entering Thursday night , Mitchell was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA, Phelps 0-1 with a 1.64 ERA and Warren 0-0, 1.93 in spring training. Phelps allowed three runs (two earned) and seven hits in five innings. Mitchell allowed Ronny Paulino’s tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth, giving up a run and two hits in 21 / 3 innings.

“What’s impressed me most about all three of them is the difference in their spring training this year compared to last year,” Girardi said. “Last year at times, I thought they looked like they were a little overwhelmed or nervous to make a mistake or [saying] ‘I’m not so sure I should be here.’ I don’t question that now.”

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