FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There continues to be only three true locks for the Yankees' bullpen, but manager Joe Girardi said that he has started to lean toward some of the decisions that will fill out the staff.
Closer David Robertson, setup man Shawn Kelley and left-handed specialist Matt Thornton are assured of going north with the team, but Girardi said that he still is not certain how his late-inning mix will get the ball to Robertson in the ninth.
"I think that's something that's going to have to work its way out a little bit," Girardi said. "I envision using Kelley back there and Thornton back there. Will it be as clear-cut as last year? Probably not. Not in the beginning."
Girardi has said that the fifth starter competition will affect his bullpen. If Michael Pineda holds on to his perceived lead to win the No. 5 rotation spot, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno all would be candidates for bullpen jobs.
Dellin Betances (0.93 ERA in 9 2/3 innings) and Cesar Cabral (0.00 ERA in eight innings) have had strong springs, and while Preston Claiborne has been hit around a little (4.76 ERA in 5 2/3 innings), he was trusted to make 44 appearances at the big league level last year. Girardi has also taken note of Fred Lewis (0.00 ERA, 8 IP).
Girardi said that while there may not be assigned roles for every pitcher when the team moves on to Houston for Opening Day, he'd like to be able to have those jobs clearly defined sometime in the first month of the season.
"When you look at it, it could be a combination of a number of guys," Girardi said. "The three spots that are really settled are Robertson, Kelley, Thornton. After that, you've got to settle four spots, and a lot of those spots are dependent on your rotation. That's probably the biggest job that we have to put together."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.