Girardi says Kuroda in rotation

Now two spots in the New York Yankees’ rotation are secure.

Manager Joe Girardi indicated Tuesday that right-hander Hiroki
Kuroda will join opening-day starter CC Sabathia in the five-man
unit.

”We’ve got six guys for five spots … and you really can look
at it as, you’ve got CC and you’ve got Kuroda,” Girardi said.
”So, you’ve got four guys for three spots.”

Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia are
also in the mix although Garcia and Hughes appear to be competing
for the final job.

”Sometimes the five that you leave with aren’t the five that
you end up with,” Girardi said. ”We’ve got time, and there’s no
rush. You’re going to go with what you feel are your five
guys.”

Kuroda agreed to a $10 million, one-year contract last month.
The 37-year-old was 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA for the Dodgers last year
and 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA in four seasons in Los Angeles after a
long career in Japan.

”You signed Kuroda to start, you signed all these guys to
start,” Girardi said. ”Kuroda has a big track history.”

Nova finished a spot ahead of Pineda in Rookie of the Year
voting after this season and is in line to fill a spot. Pineda was
acquired from Seattle for promising slugger Jesus Montero in
January as part of a multiplayer deal and is expected to have a
place rotation. But there is concern he lacks a solid third pitch –
a necessity for a top starter – and is working on his changeup this
spring.

Hughes might be forced to the bullpen after struggling with
injuries and velocity last year. He could fall behind Garcia, who
was re-signed after going 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA in his first season
in New York.

”There’s no guarantees,” Girardi said. ”You still have to do
your work, and do a quality job. How’s that going to work out? I’m
counting on all of them. That’s the way I look at it. We’ve got a
competition here.”

Also, reliever Joba Chamberlain has thrown off a full mound for
the first time in eight months after elbow ligament replacement
surgery.

Chamberlain made 16 throws during the session on Tuesday, and
said ”everything went great.”

The right-hander started working off a half-mound as part of a
rehabilitation program on Feb. 3.

”It’s just the last step in getting back,” Chamberlain said.
”Just to know that you’re on the mound. You’ve gotten over every
hurdle to this point, and I’m thankful for that.”

Chamberlain went 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 27 relief appearances
last season before surgery on June 16. He is expected to rejoin the
Yankees this season, possibly before the All-Star break.

”Will see how my arm reacts (Wednesday), that’s kind of a big
thing,” Chamberlain said. ”It feels fine when I throw no matter
what. Just the angle difference. Just different pressure on you
going up to a full mound. If it’s like anything else, it’s going to
feel fine like it has.”

Chamberlain will throw 15 to 20 fastballs off the mound again on
Friday, and hopes to throw curveballs in the next couple weeks.

NOTES: Former Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte, a guest instructor this
week, threw batting practice in an indoor cage. … 2B Robinson
Cano, who left the team following the death of his grandmother,
could return Thursday. … Closer Mariano Rivera said he will have
his second bullpen session Wednesday. … RHP David Aardsma (elbow
ligament replacement surgery), who agreed to a $500,000, one-year
contract last week, reported to camp. He is throwing at 90 feet on
level ground. … Spring instructor David Wells threw BP in a cage
to 3B Alex Rodriguez.