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Girardi: Kuroda Will Be One Of Starting Five

Joe Girardi (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Joe Girardi (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Now two spots in the Yankees’ rotation are secure.

Manager Joe Girardi indicated on Tuesday that right-hander Hiroki Kuroda will join opening-day starter CC Sabathia in the five-man unit.

“We’ve got six guys for five spots … and you really can look at it as, you’ve got CC and you’ve got Kuroda,” Girardi said. “So, you’ve got four guys for three spots.”

Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia are also in the mix, although Garcia and Hughes appear to be competing for the final job.

“Sometimes the five that you leave with aren’t the five that you end up with,”  Girardi said. “We’ve got time, and there’s no rush. You’re going to go with what you feel are your five guys.”

Kuroda agreed to a $10 million, one-year contract last month. The 37-year-old was 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA for the Dodgers last year and 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA in four seasons in Los Angeles after a long career in Japan.

“You signed Kuroda to start, you signed all these guys to start,” Girardi said. “Kuroda has a big track history.”

Nova finished a spot ahead of Pineda in Rookie of the Year voting after this season and is in line to fill a spot. Pineda was acquired from Seattle for promising slugger Jesus Montero in January as part of a multiplayer deal, and is expected to have a place in the rotation. But there is concern that he lacks a solid third pitch — a necessity for a top starter — and is working on his changeup this spring.

Hughes might be forced to the bullpen after struggling with injuries and velocity last year. He could fall behind Garcia, who was re-signed after going 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA in his first season in New York.

“There’s no guarantees,”  Girardi said. “You still have to do your work, and do a quality job. How’s that going to work out? I’m counting on all of them. That’s the way I look at it. We’ve got a competition here.”

Also, reliever Joba Chamberlain threw off a full mound for the first time in eight months on Tuesday, after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery.

Chamberlain made 16 throws during the session, and said “everything went great.”

The right-hander started working off a half-mound as part of a rehabilitation program on Feb. 3.

“It’s just the last step in getting back,” Chamberlain said. “Just to know that you’re on the mound. You’ve gotten over every hurdle to this point, and I’m thankful for that.”

Chamberlain went 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 27 relief appearances last season before having surgery on June 16. He is expected to rejoin the Yankees this season, possibly before the All-Star break.

“Will see how my arm reacts [Wednesday], that’s kind of a big thing,” Chamberlain said. “It feels fine when I throw, no matter what. Just the angle difference. Just different pressure on you going up to a full mound. If it’s like anything else, it’s going to feel fine like it has.”

Chamberlain will throw 15 to 20 fastballs off the mound again on Friday, and hopes to throw curveballs in the next couple weeks.

NOTES: Former Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte, a guest instructor this week, threw batting practice in an indoor cage. … 2B Robinson Cano, who left the team following the death of his grandmother, could return Thursday. … Closer Mariano Rivera said he will have his second bullpen session Wednesday. … RHP David Aardsma (elbow ligament replacement surgery), who agreed to a $500,000, one-year contract last week, reported to camp. He is throwing at 90 feet on level ground. … Spring instructor David Wells threw batting practice in a cage to 3B Alex Rodriguez.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Does Kuroda deserve a spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation? And should Garcia or Hughes get the fifth-starter’s job? Sound off in the comments section below…