Masahiro Tanaka to make spring debut on Sunday

Masahiro Tanaka, the expected Opening Day starter for the Yankees, will get two innings or 35 pitches in his first start of the spring. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

TAMPA, Fl. -- The New York Yankees will get their first look at Masahiro Tanaka, their expected Opening Day starter, against live hitters when the Yankees travel to Clearwater to face the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.

Manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka, who had offseason elbow surgery, will throw the customary two innings or 35 pitches in his first outing since taking the loss in the wild-card playoff game to the Houston Astros last October.

"The first couple of times with your starters you just hope that they come out feeling good," Girardi said. "You want them to feel good about themselves, but physically feel good, too. I think it's probably the most important thing (Sunday)."

Tanaka has been brought along slowly this spring, but threw a 61-pitch bullpen session and a simulated game last week in preparation for his first spring start.

Another first, at third: Rob Refsnyder, a second baseman by trade, will make his first start at third base on Sunday as the Yankees search for ways to work his bat into the lineup and find a path to include him on their roster when they head north. Refsnyder, who has also been tried in the outfield, said he has, in fact, played some third base. But not since he was in college. "I'm pumped," Refsnyder said. "I just need to get used to the speed of the position. Hopefully the first ball's just a hard line drive or something like that, a reaction play, and we get it out of the way."

And yet another first: After being held out of the first three games, Jacoby Ellsbury made his first start of the spring, and tripled to the right-center gap. After he scored on a ground out, Girardi immediately pulled him from the game, not wanting to take any chances with his, um, finely-tuned center fielder. "As great as it is to hit a triple, you're kinda like, OK, take it easy when it's so early on," Girardi said. "They've runs sprints and they've done all that but there's a different intensity level when it's in a game."

Johnny Wholestaff: The Yankees used nine pitchers, one an inning, in the game, starting with Tyler Cloyd, who allowed a run on a leadoff triple by Mookie Betts and a single by Brock Holt. Chasen Shreve, Nick Rumbelow, Tyler Olson, Johnny Barbato, Richard Bleier and Kyle Haynes followed with scoreless innings before Mark Montgomery allowed three eighth-inning runs on homers by Brennan Boesch and Ryan LaMarre. Nick Goody pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save. The game was played in a tidy 2:18.

Slim pickings: The Yankees are sending a skeleton crew to Clearwater to back Tanaka. Of the regulars, only Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro are making the trip; Dustin Ackley and Refsnyder will complete the infield, Gary Sanchez will catch and Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Slade Heathcott will play the outfield. No Yankees TV for the 1:05 start but the game will be broadcast on WFAN.