Odd man may be really out

All spring training long, it's been pretty much assumed that whoever comes out the loser in the Yankees competition for their No. 5 starter's job would go north with the team but cool his jets in the bullpen as insurance in case one of the others gets injured or proves ineffective.

Not so fast, says Joe Girardi.

Asked before tonight's game between the Yankees and the Orioles at the Boss if it was automatic tha the No. 6 starter would be sent to bullpen, Girardi said, "No, its not.''

That opens up all sorts of tantalizing possibilities. means that either Michael Pineda, with one season of major-league ball under his belt, or Ivan Nova, with a season and a half, could start the season in AAA. Or that Freddy Garcia, who would probably never accept a minor-league assignment at this stage of his career, could wind up being traded.

It also raised the possibility of one more opening on the pitching staff, that of long reliever, a job that could go to one of three pitchers -- David Phelps, tonight's starter, Adam Warren, who has had a good spring, or D.J. Mitchell, who is scheduled to pitch tonight after Phelps and Mariano Rivera get their work in.

"Any one of them can be candidates for the job,'' Girardi said. "What's impressed me most about all three of them is the difference in Spring Training compared to last year. Last year, at times, I thought they almost looked like they were a little overwhelmed or a little nervous to make a mistake. I don't question that now. There's a totally different attitude from all three of them.''

Girardi said any of the three, righthanders all, could make the team in addition to a second lefty reliever, a job that will go to either Clay Rapada or Cesar Cabral, both of whom are also scheduled to pitch tonight.