TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees' rotation battle has widely been considered a two-man competition for one final spot, with Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia jockeying to be the fifth starter. But manager Joe Girardi spun that idea on its head Tuesday, saying only two spots in the rotation were guaranteed -- CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda -- while the other four candidates were competing for the remaining three spots.
That doesn't necessarily mean Kuroda is the No. 2 starter, Girardi said, but the Yankees view his track record as too strong to consider excluding him. As for Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Hughes and Garcia, Girardi said they have to earn their spots.
"I think you have to include everyone. I think it's the only fair way to do it," Girardi said, insisting he wasn't just trying to motivate his pitchers. "In our division, and with the way baseball is designed, one game in the record column is a big thing. You're going to go with what you feel is your five best.
"I'm not trying to cause a stir. ... I'm just trying to make sure that when we leave Spring Training, we're taking what we feel is the five best. And to be fair, there's no guarantees."
Granted, Girardi had already said two spots in the rotation would definitely belong to Sabathia and Kuroda. But he remembered the advice he received from former manager Don Zimmer, who once told him to never guarantee any player a spot.
"We've got a competition here. We've got to iron out five spots," Girardi said. "And sometimes the five that you leave with aren't the five that you end up with. But we've got time, and there's no rush."