Outlook: Could lead baseball in runs and steals

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury already has three stolen-base titles, which is plenty of proof that he knows how to swipe a bag. As such, it figures to be rare for him to attempt a steal in a Spring Training game.

"I kind of like to save them for the season," Ellsbury said. "Don't be looking for me to run too much in Spring Training. Maybe I'll go once or twice in spring."

Ellsbury explained that instead of stealing during the spring, he prefers to practice his timing. It's enough for him to know that he would have had a good jump on the pitcher had he actually needed to run.

"I just try, when I get on base, to give a little jab step maybe, simulate me going," he said. "In a given at-bat, I've [gone] five or six times. Instead of going once, I get a lot more reps that way to get my first step, and that's the most important thing. I think I get a lot more work out of doing it that way instead of actually stealing the base."

Ellsbury won't be surprised when fans are unimpressed by his spring stolen-base totals. That's something he heard a lot during his time with the Red Sox, too.

"I get that each year: 'Oh, he had two stolen bases,'" he said. "That's by design."

Focus only on playing, Jeter set for first spring game

Ozzie Smith discusses Derek Jeter's legacy

TAMPA, Fla. -- The trips to the trainers' office are much less frequent these days for Derek Jeter, and the Yankees' captain insists that he no longer thinks much about his surgically repaired left ankle. This spring it has been all about baseball.

Jeter is scheduled to play in his first exhibition game of the spring on Thursday, suiting up for the 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Pirates at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Today's Game will be streamed free on MLB.TV with no blackouts.

"I'm looking forward to getting out there," Jeter said. "I think everyone, when Spring Training starts, looks forward to getting the games underway so they can get into a routine.

"The first few days of Spring Training, it's just going through a lot of drills, trying to get in baseball shape. Once the games start, you can get into a daily routine, so I'm looking forward to that."

Manager Joe Girardi said that there have been no restrictions this spring for Jeter, who has not played in a game since Sept. 7 and was limited to just 17 contests last season.

"The good thing for us is that everything he's done has been good and has been positive," Girardi said. "So last year, where we had some concerns with the way he was running or the way he was moving, we haven't had any of that this Spring Training."

Jeter announced earlier this month that he plans to retire after this season and that he will be making a greater effort to soak in each experience. He said that it has been much more enjoyable being able to work out consistently.

"Last year, the first few days, I did a lot of things inside as opposed to outside," he said. "Since I've been here this year, everything has just been like a normal spring. You can't really compare last year and this year -- it's two entirely different years. Last year I felt like I was rehabbing. This year I'm just here to play."

Jeter has had no issues with drills at shortstop, taking batting practice or running the bases. He has no concerns about how his leg or his lower half will respond when pushed under game conditions.

"Not at all. I've done my work," he said. "I feel like I'm ready to go. Every year that you come, it's always a little bit different when you start playing. You're hitting, and you're running.

"You're doing things at game speed that you don't do in the offseason. You can't really replicate it in the offseason. You have to pretty much just go through the games and start playing. Nothing out of the ordinary."

Nova's mission? Sustained excellence

Outlook: Nova ended '13 solid, set to impress in '14

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Ivan Nova finished 2013 with a flourish, enjoying a late-season surge that included honors as the American League's Pitcher of the Month for August.

Choosing to take the positives from a campaign that also saw him demoted to the Minor Leagues early, Nova is on a mission to keep that level of performance for the whole schedule.

"That [second half] was good, but that's the past," Nova said. "I know what I can do. I've just got to do it out there. Whatever is in the past is in the past. This is a new year, and hopefully, I'll get a good one."

Nova started his spring on Wednesday with 1 1/3 innings against the Pirates at McKechnie Field, allowing two hits with two walks and a strikeout.

"The way I feel physically, I'm really happy to be back on the mound," he said. "It's been a long time. I know I was throwing to the hitters in BP, but it's not the same. To have your teammates behind you, the umpires and the fans, it was a great day today."

Having reached his prescribed count quickly, Nova departed after 37 pitches with two men on base; both runners would score after Bruce Billings took over in relief.

"He did OK. I thought his arm strength was good, and he threw some good curveballs," manager Joe Girardi said. "It was a day that there were a few walks, and you try to eliminate those as time goes on."

Nova worked out and ran more during the winter, changes he hopes will pay dividends when the season begins.

"[It's] the time that you're growing up as a baseball player, you realize that you've got to put a little more effort," he said.

Bombers bits

Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna will both receive extended looks this spring as the Yankees try to evaluate their infield depth. Solarte went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer on Wednesday against the Pirates, but he also committed an error at shortstop. Anna went 1-for-2 in the 6-5 loss.

"They're right in the middle of it. You'll see us move them around," Girardi said. "You'll see them play the middle infield, you'll see them play the corner. We will move them around."

Eduardo Nunez was originally in Wednesday's lineup but was scratched because of flu-like symptoms. Outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who was slowed by illness earlier in camp, is scheduled to make his spring debut on March 2, against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.

• Left-hander Francisco Rondon has a sore arm, and right-hander Jose Ramirez experienced stiffness in his back while warming up in the bullpen. In other injury updates, right-hander Matt Daley has a sore calf, left-hander Nik Turley is on day five of a seven-day throwing shutdown and outfielder Tyler Austin is scheduled to have his sore wrist examined.