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Claiborne's struggles could factor for Girardi

Claiborne's struggles could factor for Girardi

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Preston Claiborne, who made 44 appearances in the big leagues for the Yankees last season, has had a rough spring and could begin the year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The right-hander allowed six earned runs on four hits with a walk and did not record an out in Wednesday's appearance against the Blue Jays, part of Toronto's eight-run fifth inning. Claiborne also hit a batter with a pitch.

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"The stuff has not been the same, for whatever reason," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "When we got him up last year he had been on a roll and he was throwing the ball very well. He has not been able to do that this spring, and it's something that we've looked at."

Claiborne, 26, was 0-2 with a 4.11 ERA with New York last season. His spring ERA rose from 4.76 to 14.29 with Wednesday's appearance, and Girardi has said that he was already facing difficult decisions to narrow down his bullpen choices.

David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton were considered early locks, and Girardi has indicated that David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno will all be looked at to fill relief spots. Dellin Betances also pitched a scoreless inning on Wednesday, lowering his spring ERA to 0.79.

"I think we look at taking our best team when we leave," Girardi said. "In saying that, we have some tough decisions to make over the next three days, and it's really less than that because we leave in three days."

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.

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