Postgame notes: Nova, Ellsbury to minors

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have a day off Monday -- a day for players to rest and for managers, coaches and front-office types to discuss and decide who's staying here and who's going north when the club breaks camp next Saturday.

Except for two of them: Ivan Nova and Francisco Cervelli have a work day across the field at the Player Development complex. In an effort to keep him on his every-five-days routine, Nova will pitch in a minor league game at 11 a.m., and Cervelli (lucky guy) will catch him.

Then on Tuesday, while the rest of the Yankees prepare to host the Phillies in a night game at The Boss, Jacoby Ellsbury -- who has been out since March 15 with a calf injury -- will play in another minor league game at the same complex. Unless of course it rains, in which case Girardi said he might hold Ellsbury back another day so he can play in a minor league game on Wednesday. Under no conditions, it seems, will Girardi test his $153 million center fielder against major leaguers until he shows he can survive a minor league game first.

Still, both he and Ellsbury maintain there is plenty of time -- the Yankees have five spring games left -- for Ellsbury to be ready for the season opener on April 1.

"I just want to get him some at-bats," Girardi said. "We'll figure out what it is."

Balsa wood: The Yankees had eight hits in Sunday's 3-1 loss, but most of them were of the hollow variety with the exception of Ichiro Suzuki's ground-rule double in the sixth that bounced over the right-field fence and was close to being a home run. The shot continued Suzuki's mastery of Mark Buehrle, against whom Ichiro has a .421 career batting average in real games. Carlos Beltran (2-for-3) also had a double in the inning. Brett Gardner had two singles. The Yankees scored their only run on a double-play grounder by Derek Jeter, who went 0-for-3 to drop his spring average to .114.

"I’m not really too worried about it," Girardi said. "It is spring training, and he was off almost like a year and a half. He feels better at the plate, his timing feels like he’s closer, so I’m not too worried."

Ryan's hope: Girardi said Brendan Ryan, who has been suffering from upper back spasms, felt better Sunday. "It’s nice to see him where he can actually turn his head," Girardi said. It's still unlikely that Ryan, who has not played since March 4, will start the season anywhere other than the disabled list.