- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have three more spring training games to play before they break camp on Saturday night, but for a trip of utility infielders fighting for two open spots, this afternoon's game against the Pirates in Bradenton is the last chance to catch the manager's eye, and maybe change his mind.
Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte are all in the lineup today, and by tomorrow afternoon, after Girardi & Co. have one more "organizational meeting," two of them will be heading to Houston for the season opener. The third will be headed to the minors. (There is an extra opening since Brendan Ryan will begin the season on the DL).
The guess here is Nunez is set, if only because he has a solid base of big-league experience. And Anna, who is in his first major-league training camp after six years in the Padres system -- he hit .331 for their AAA Tucson affiliate last year -- probably has an edge because he is on the Yankees 40-man roster.
But the most intriguing of them all is Solarte, who has had the best spring of the three of them, batting .459 with two homers and 8 RBI. More surprisingly, the 26-year-old Venezuelan, who was signed this winter as a free agent after eight seasons in the Twins organization, has shown some capability with the glove, as well as enough versatility to play the outfield.
He is probably the long shot to make the team, even with a great final day today, but the mantra around here is, "If you got pants, you got a chance."
Here's the rest of the Yankees lineup:
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Yangervis Solarte 2B
Dean Anna SS
Zelous Wheeler DH
Adonis Garcia RF
CC Sabathia LHP
Sabathia is scheduled to throw 45-50 pitches today in his final tuneup before opening day. The game will be televised by YES starting at 1:05 p.m.
Cut down day: Ten more players were reassigned to minor-league camp today -- Pitchers Preston Claiborne, Danny Burawa, David Herndon, Fred Lewis, Chris Leroux, Jim Miller and Yoshinori Tateyama, INFs Russ Canzler and Scott Sizemore and OF Zoilo Almonte. The biggest surprise is Claiborne, who due to his contributions last season was expected to be part of the bullpen. But he had an awful spring training, capped by yesterday's disaster, in which he allowed six earned runs without getting a single out.
The Jacoby Report: Jacoby Ellsbury will not play in a game today but did take batting practice on the field and Girardi said he will play both Friday and Saturday. However, the Yankees have not decided whether he will play with the big-league club or on the minor-league side, since they would like to reserve the right to backdate him on the disabled list if his tight right calf has "a setback," according to Girardi.
Two to go: Hiroki Kuroda will start tomorrow night's game against the Marlins, and Masahiro Tanaka will throw a few innings as well. Ivan Nova will start Saturday afternoon's camp finale, also against the Marlins.