NYY@PHI: Ellsbury hammers a solo home run to right

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jacoby Ellsbury logged six plate appearances in a Minor League game on Tuesday, testing his sore right calf, and the Yankees outfielder is confident that he will be able to avoid a trip to the disabled list.

"Today was the first step in the sense of just playing in a game," Ellsbury said. "I've been running and sprinting, doing all that stuff. I've hit every day for the most part since I've been playing. It feels pretty good."

Ellsbury has not played in a Grapefruit League game since March 14 due to the sore calf. Facing pitchers from the Double-A Trenton squad, Ellsbury grounded out, lined out, walked twice, struck out looking and singled to center field.

Ellsbury was replaced by pinch-runners once he reached first base, but he said that he felt normal with his first steps out of the box. Ellsbury said that he would probably test running first to third on Wednesday, and did not play defense because of a soggy outfield.

"Today was just to get some swings in, not run the bases," Ellsbury said.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Ellsbury will probably play in another Minor League game on Wednesday, and for backdating purposes, Ellsbury will not play in a Grapefruit League game until the club is absolutely certain he will not need to go on the DL.

"I feel pretty good about it, but I can't say I'm absolutely sure until we run him out in the outfield and see how he does," Girardi said.

Ellsbury said that he feels ready to play in a full game if the Yankees wanted him to, and has no doubt about being in the Opening Day lineup on April 1 against the Astros in Houston.

"The best thing about it is we have time right now," Ellsbury said. "I play center field, you need to cover a lot of ground, steal bases, do a lot of different things as far as using my legs. We just want to make sure it's 100 percent, but as far as me not being ready, in that regard, I'll be good to go."

Phelps, Warren, Nuno take news in stride

NYY@BOS: Phelps holds Sox to three runs in six frames

TAMPA, Fla. -- As pleased as the Yankees were to see Michael Pineda earn the fifth-starter's job this spring, that decision forced some uncomfortable conversations with runners-up David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno.

"I know they want to start," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm not going to sugarcoat that ... that's what they've done their whole career. I think they took it pretty well and I think they just want to help us win."

Phelps said that it was "disappointing" to be told that he will be beginning the season in the bullpen, but the Yankees right-hander said that he believes he can fill whatever role is asked of him.

"I'd hope so," Phelps said. "When I was in the bullpen in '12, I kind of did everything except for close. It's not different than going out for a start; you just have to get guys out.

"The situation gets a little bit more magnified in the bullpen because you're pitching later in games, but still, [it's] going out, throwing strikes and getting guys out."

Warren started on Tuesday against the Phillies and pitched a scoreless inning, transitioning into his relief role. Phelps allowed an unearned run in the second inning, while Nuno served up two solo homers in the third.

Phelps and Warren seem to be assured of breaking camp with the team, while Nuno could pitch in relief or start at Triple-A. Not surprisingly, Nuno's preference would be to stay on the big league roster.

"It's always nice to be up here. I'm always just trying to help the team win, in any aspect," Nuno said. "Right now, my role is in the bullpen, so I've got to stick with it and do my best every day."

As a measure of silver lining, Girardi said that it is important to remember that the Yankees will almost certainly need more than five starters this season.

"When you name a starter, that doesn't mean that these guys won't start at some point this year," Girardi said. "And I told them that, too."

Tanaka not yet thinking about first MLB start

NYY@MIN: Tanaka strikes out six in 5 2/3 frames

TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka is still more than a week away from throwing his first pitch in a Major League game, which explains why the Yankees right-hander's expression remains placid on the topic.

"Maybe it's that I'm not thinking too much, but right now I'm not overly excited," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "But as we get closer to the game day, I'm sure that excitement will come along."

Tanaka, 25, has been slotted as the Yanks' fourth starter to open the season, so his debut will come on April 4 at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

"I understand how good the lineup is for the Blue Jays, but once I get on the mound, I just have to try to go out there and do my best," Tanaka said.

After signing a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees this past offseason, Tanaka said that he has been pleased with the transition process.

"I feel that I was able to come up here without any big issues or problems," Tanaka said.

Infielder Ryan likely to begin season on DL

FSU@NYY: Ryan lines an RBI double to left

TAMPA, Fla. -- Infielder Brendan Ryan (pinched nerve in upper back) is likely to begin the year on the 15-day disabled list, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

"He is feeling better, but I'd be really surprised if he started on the 25-man roster and not on the DL," Girardi said.

Ryan said that he had a cortisone injection on Saturday and has regained almost all of his range of motion, but he has not played since March 4 and has just eight at-bats this spring, making it difficult to envision breaking camp with the team.

"Just probably going off the at-bats, yeah," Ryan said. "I'm definitely not pushing for anything. Whatever is best, and it seems like if you really roll into the season having eight at-bats, I don't think that would be responsible to the team.

"We talked about pitch recognition the last time we talked; I've got to see some breaking balls and stuff like that. Not to mention, I probably only saw a handful of balls in the field. I'll get a chance to come out here and play on the back fields, see some reps at second and third also."

With Eduardo Nunez likely to be on the Opening Day roster, Girardi could choose between Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte for an extra backup infield spot.

"All those guys in those positions have played extremely well," Girardi said. "That's a tough decision, too."

Bombers bits

Catcher John Ryan Murphy was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday, leaving Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine to battle for the role of Brian McCann's backup. Cervelli is believed to be in the lead, enjoying a spring that has seen him hit .455 with four homers and seven RBIs.

"He's played extremely well," Girardi said. "I'll announce it when the time is right, but he's played extremely well."