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Yankees bullpen set, infielders still waiting

3/28/2014

TAMPA, Fla. -- Manager Joe Girardi completed his bullpen tonight, naming right-hander Dellin Betances and lefty Vidal Nuno to a relief staff that already included David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, David Phelps and Adam Warren.

But his infield is still up in the air, possibly because Brendan Ryan, out since March 4 with upper-back spasms, is unlikely to be ready to return to action when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 7.

"He hasn't done anything, and he only had 10 plate appearances before he got hurt," GM Brian Cashman said of Ryan before tonight's game against the Miami Marlins. "He's going to have to start from scratch."

That could mean Ryan will not play until mid- or even late April, meaning whomever the Yankees add as a reserve infielder would not be just a four- or five-game replacement. More importantly, since Ryan's intended role was as the backup to Derek Jeter, the Yankees will need someone who can step in and play shortstop at least once a week, and possibly more.

That is likely the reason Girardi, who had intended to announce his entire roster before tonight's game, was forced to say, "The infielders are not done."

"There’s some discussions that need to take place and some things we have to talk about, and we’ll get it worked out as soon as we can," he said.

As of yesterday, the candidates were Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte, who had the best spring of the three but is not on the 40-man roster. The Yankees would need to move someone off the 40 to make room for him.

Cashman acknowledged that the roster status of Solarte, who batted .415 this spring with two home runs and eight RBI while playing several infield positions as well as left field, complicated the Yankees' decision-making process.

"Obviously, by adding someone not on the 40, it's going to have to come at someone else's expense," he said. "We're talking through it all."

Tex sets the record straight: A N.Y. tabloid story on Friday portrayed Mark Teixeira as "protecting" his surgically repaired right wrist and quoted him as "not trusting that the wrist is healthy." Before tonight's game, Teixeira said his problem was "subconscious" rather than physical, that he was unknowingly letting go of the bat on contact while batting left-handed.

"It was just a really bad mechanical thing," he said. "Mentally, I have to continue to remember that it’s healthy now, and, even though it might be a little bit tight -- and every now and then it’s a little bit sore -- I can still take that full swing."

Teixeira said he and hitting coach Kevin Long noticed it while watching tapes of his swing pre- and post-surgery. As a result, Long said, Teixeira's swing was not "explosive" until yesterday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., when Teixeira, although hitless, made some decent contact. Teixeira's spring average is .091 with no home runs and four RBI.

"I've been hitting some nice line drives, but those line drives I need to get under and hit for home runs," Teixeira said. "That'll come. That'll come with just getting stronger as the season goes on. No one can predict what the season's going to give you, but what I do know is that, through six weeks of spring training, I'm healthy, and that's a really good sign."

Vidal options: Girardi said his reason for choosing Nuno over Cesar Cabral as the second lefty out of the bullpen was a matter of flexibility. "We think Nuno gives us more options because he's a guy that can give you some innings if they have a lefty, righty, lefty," Girardi said.

"I can sleep a little bit better now, just knowing that I’m heading to Houston [for the season-opening series] and then New York," Nuno said. "It was such a big rush. It was unbelievable how everything just came true a little bit. Now, I gotta stick here and just produce."

Ellsbury to play Saturday: Jacoby Ellsbury went 2-for-5 in a minor league game and came out with no problems, so Girardi said the plan was to play him in the spring training finale tomorrow afternoon. That is, if the weather cooperates. Rain is in the forecast all day Saturday. In the event of a rainout, Girardi said Ellsbury -- who has not played in a big league game since March 14 -- would remain in Tampa to play in one more minor league game on Sunday before joining the Yankees for the opener in Houston.

Pineda staying back: Michael Pineda, who won the No. 5 starter job with an excellent camp, does not pitch until Saturday, April 5, so the Yankees will leave him in Tampa so he can pitch a minor league game here on Sunday.

Coming back: Right-hander Alfredo Aceves, a Yankee for three seasons, including the 2009 championship season when he went 10-1, was signed to a minor league deal after opting out of his contract with the Baltimore Orioles upon learning he would not make the team. Aceves, a 31-year-old, was assigned to Triple-A Scranton and is expected to be a starter for the RailRiders. He could provide some late-season rotation insurance in case of injury.