FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There continues to be only three true locks for the Yankees' bullpen, but manager Joe Girardi said that he has started to lean toward some of the decisions that will fill out the staff.
Closer David Robertson, setup man Shawn Kelley and left-handed specialist Matt Thornton are assured of going north with the team, but Girardi said that he still is not certain how his late-inning mix will get the ball to Robertson in the ninth.
"I think that's something that's going to have to work its way out a little bit," Girardi said. "I envision using Kelley back there and Thornton back there. Will it be as clear-cut as last year? Probably not. Not in the beginning."
Girardi has said that the fifth starter competition will affect his bullpen. If Michael Pineda holds on to his perceived lead to win the No. 5 rotation spot, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno all would be candidates for bullpen jobs.
Dellin Betances (0.93 ERA in 9 2/3 innings) and Cesar Cabral (0.00 ERA in eight innings) have had strong springs, and while Preston Claiborne has been hit around a little (4.76 ERA in 5 2/3 innings), he was trusted to make 44 appearances at the big league level last year. Girardi has also taken note of Fred Lewis (0.00 ERA, 8 IP).
Girardi said that while there may not be assigned roles for every pitcher when the team moves on to Houston for Opening Day, he'd like to be able to have those jobs clearly defined sometime in the first month of the season.
"When you look at it, it could be a combination of a number of guys," Girardi said. "The three spots that are really settled are Robertson, Kelley, Thornton. After that, you've got to settle four spots, and a lot of those spots are dependent on your rotation. That's probably the biggest job that we have to put together."
Back spasms may keep Ryan off Opening Day roster
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Opening Day is now considered to be in jeopardy for shortstop Brendan Ryan, who was scratched from Thursday's lineup against the Red Sox due to upper back spasms.
Ryan, who turns 32 later this month, was expecting to return to game action for the first time since March 4. Ryan felt his back knot up while uncorking a hard throw during infield practice, and he said the spasms are in a higher spot than his previous lower back injury.
"I've felt this stuff before," Ryan said. "It doesn't seem to last for a long, long time. I think there's some work I need to do in there with releasing some of that stuff that's gnarled up. I think after that I'll be right back to where I was."
Manager Joe Girardi, who dealt with back issues during the tail end of his own playing career, cast a less optimistic view of Ryan's situation.
"This was something different; spasms, you're going to be down for a little bit more," Girardi said. "I think you have to be [concerned about Opening Day], just because of where we are right now. I don't imagine he'll play before the weekend is over. I would be surprised."
Ryan signed a two-year, $5 million deal with New York during the offseason and has been envisioned in line to serve as Derek Jeter's backup at shortstop. However, with Ryan's spring limited to just eight at-bats thus far, it is unknown if he will be ready for the season opener on April 1 in Houston.
"Anything is a possibility," Ryan said. "I'm not trying to get too far ahead of myself. Of course I want to be on that plane heading for Houston, but I don't know. I don't want to speak for Joe. I would never do that.
"But whatever is best for me is what they're going to do. If that's getting more at-bats, staying back a couple of days, and then meeting up on Opening Day, I don't know. There's all kind of options at this point."
If Ryan is unavailable for the Opening Day roster, Girardi indicated that he would probably select two players from the group of Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte. Nunez and Anna are both on the 40-man roster, while Solarte is a non-roster invitee this spring.
"All these guys that are competing for that extra spot, they can pretty much all play shortstop," Girardi said. "Nunez does, Anna does, Solarte does. You can look at it that way."