FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Yankees beat the Red Sox 3-2 in a game that looked and felt a lot like something we'll see during the regular season. Except, of course, that the Red Sox started virtually all of their regulars, and the Yankees sent out David Phelps, Mark Teixeira and a bunch of backups.
This should have been great news, except for one minor detail:
Before the game, Brendan Ryan, signed to a two-year deal as insurance against injury to Derek Jeter, had to be scratched with spasms in his upper back. Having just missed 16 days with lower back pain, Ryan is now in real danger of beginning the regular season on the disabled list.
And that could cause problems for Joe Girardi and his club.
“I think you have to be, just because of where we are right now," Girardi said when asked if he was concerned that Ryan will not be ready for the start of the season. “He hasn’t played much; that’s the problem."
Ryan has appeared in just four games and has had only eight at-bats all spring. He has not played since March 4, and with just eight spring games remaining, doesn't figure to be able to get many reps against major league competition before the Yankees break camp on March 29.
"He would have to play some next week and it might have to be in some minor league games just to get him some at-bats," Girardi said.
Girardi said that if Ryan has to go on the DL, it might force him to carry an extra backup infielder. He mentioned Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte as possible candidates, along with Eduardo Nunez, who is already likely to make the club as the backup third baseman.
“All these guys that are competing for that extra spot, they can pretty much all play shortstop," Girardi said.
Ryan said he has had similar injuries before -- he likened it to "knots" in his upper back along the right side of his spine -- and said he could not predict how long it would last. "Sometimes it sticks around a few days," he said. "Then again, I could wake up tomorrow morning and it might be gone."
But Ryan, too, acknowledged the possibility that he will not be ready to go by April 1.
"I of course want to be on that plane heading for Houston, but I don’t know," he said. "I need to see pitches. I need to see breaking balls and that stuff. I’m not too worried about being in the field. It’s the at-bats that I need. If that means staying back a couple of days and getting more at-bats, I don’t know. There’s all kind of options at this point.”
Phelps staying close: David Phelps is not making Girardi's decision on the No. 5 starter any easier by pitching the way he did on Thursday night. Facing a Red Sox lineup that included all of Boston's regulars -- Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino -- minus Jonny Gomes, Phelps shut them down for five innings and was one out from escaping a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth when Pedroia lined a double to draw Boston within one. Phelps finished the inning, and then Chris Leroux, Fred Lewis and Matt Daley held the Red Sox scoreless, on one hit, the rest of the way to preserve the win.
"One out away. Man," Phelps said. "It’s just, I was so close. It’s the pitch I want to make, just not the spot I want to throw it. But I’m not going to let one at-bat dictate my outing there."
Bam! Francisco: Francisco Cervelli continued to hit his way into trade rumors with a monster home run over the replica of the Green Monster in left to give the Yankees a 1-0 second-inning lead. It was Cervelli's team-leading fourth home run of the spring -- no other Yankee has more than two, and Brian McCann, the $85 million starter, has one in virtually the same number of at-bats -- and he is batting .484.
Persistent Ich: Ichiro Suzuki, who may see his playing time increase as Jacoby Ellsbury's calf injury lingers, knocked in the winning runs with a two-RBI single in the fifth. Ichiro also hit the ball hard in his first at-bat, lining out to Victorino in center leading off the game.
Tomorrow's news: Fresh off his five no-hit innings against the Marlins in Panama, CC Sabathia makes his fourth start of the spring in a night game at The Boss against the Pittsburgh Pirates. RHP Edinson Volquez goes for the Bucs. You can catch it on the MLB Network beginning at 7:05 p.m.