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Saturday, March 22, 2014
Morning notes: Tanaka to storm The Fort

By Wallace Matthews

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees are sending Masahiro Tanaka 135 miles down the interstate this morning to face the Minnesota Twins in Ft. Myers, while at the same time, Hiroki Kuroda will be throwing to minor-league hitters right across the street from The Boss at the Yankees' player development complex.

Why the star treatment for Kuroda and the long bus shlep for Tanaka, who arrived in camp via a private jet that cost in the neighborhood of $200,000?

"His call," Joe Girardi said. “He wants to see big league hitters. We said, great. We think it’s important for him, too.”

Since it is a home game for the Twins, they will probably send out a fairly representative lineup against Tanaka, who is on a 90-pitch limit today.

Tanaka will be backed by a cast of mostly backups and irregulars today, but no matter. This one is all about seeing how deep into a major league game Tanaka can carry his splitter, which has been very impressive in relatively small doses so far.

"He's going to go through the lineup a few times," Girardi said. "You want to see how he does when the pitch count gets really high. I think that's probably the best for him.”

Here's the Yankee's lineup for today:

Brett Gardner DH
Eduardo Nunez SS
Kelly Johnson 1B
Francisco Cervelli C
Scott Sizemore 3B
Dean Anna 2B
Zoilo Almonte RF
Zelous Wheeler LF
Antoan Richardson CF

Tanaka RHP

NOTES: Johnson, who Girardi said again today is his everyday third baseman, continues to back up every other infield position, playing first base today. ... Gardner is DH-ing because he played last night, and is expected to come out after five innings. ... Derek Jeter, who fouled the ball off his left leg twice in his first at-bat last night, came rolling into the clubhouse this morning looking none the worse for it. ... The plan is for Jacoby Ellsbury to increase his workload today, but Girardi still does not expect him to play until Tuesday at the earliest, and possibly in a minor-league game. ... Brendan Ryan reported he felt "much better" this morning, but Girardi continues to say his availability for Opening Day is "in jeopardy" due to spasms in his upper back. ... Girardi is hinting he will announce the winner of the No. 5 starter competition this weekend, and although he maintains there are still four pitchers in contention, it is pretty clear only Michael Pineda and David Phelps have a real shot. Both Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno seem to have been removed from the major league rotation; both were relegated to pitching in minor-league games this week. ... All the Yankees have Monday off. All but two, that is: Ivan Nova will be sent across the street to pitch in a minor-league game, and Cervelli will go along to catch him. ... Today's game is on the MLB Network and also on WFAN starting at 1:05 p.m.