Girardi to Pineda (and everyone else): No guarantees

If you take Joe Girardi at his word, the Yankees may well have traded away the next Yogi Berra for a guy who could wind up not making his starting rotation.

That's a big "if,'' of course, and I'm inclined to believe the Yankees manager was trying to send out some sort of motivational message, but at his post-workout news conference this afternoon, Girardi said that only CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are guaranteed spots in the Yankees rotation.

“That’s kind of what we’re looking at,'' Girardi said. "You sign Kuroda to start – you sign all these guys to start, but Kuroda has a big track history. So now you've got four guys for three spots.''

Which means, theoretically, that Michael Pineda, the 6-7, 280-pound righty the Yankees acquired from Seattle for Jesus Montero, is fighting for a spot along with Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia.

It also means -- again, theoretically -- that the Yankee rotation could include both Hughes and Garcia, who all along have been assumed to be in competition for the last remaining spot.

"I mean, he’s got to pitch,'' Girardi said of Pineda, who had an impressive rookie season for the Mariners but showed up to camp here admitting to being 10 pounds overweight. "He’s gotta stay healthy and he’s gotta pitch. Nothing’s given to you in life. Nothing. We’re not just handing things over. The gotta do their work.''

Girardi then quoted his former manager, Don Zimmer, who once advised him, "Don't ever guarantee anyone a spot.''

It is probably Girardi's way of keeping honest a camp in which there is, honestly, very little competition and even less opportunity for anyone to "play his way onto the team,'' which is very bad news for the likes of Russell Branyan, Bill Hall and just about every relief pitcher in the clubhouse with the exception of three situational left-handers who are vying to be the second lefty out of the bullpen.

"I’m not trying to cause a stir,'' Girardi said. "I’m just trying to make sure that when we leave spring training, we’re taking what we feel is the five best. And to be fair, there’s no guarantees.''