TAMPA, Fla. -- The organizational round-table discussions that will settle the Yankees' final two rotation slots may be closer than originally anticipated.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on Saturday that the team must finalize its decisions soon, considering the cases of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, who can exercise options and become free agents this month.
"It's been a healthy competition," Cashman said. "These guys have come in here and put their best foot forward and stayed healthy. We're going to have a tough call to make here at some point, and it's going to come soon."
Ivan Nova, 24-year-old rookie, moved closer to clinching a rotation slot in his last start, hurling six hitless frames against the Orioles on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, lowering his spring ERA to 1.29 in 14 innings.
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With Sergio Mitre seemingly headed back to the long-reliever and spot-starter roles he filled last season, owning a 2.25 ERA in eight innings but having been slowed by a minor oblique injury, the Yankees are evaluating each pitch thrown by Colon and Garcia closely.
"It's probably the best scenario that we could have hoped for as we entered camp, with everybody having a good, strong competition," Cashman said. "Anybody can make their case."
Cashman said that a decision needs to be made because starting pitchers must be stretched out further, and those accepting defined roles need time to adjust.
Either Colon or Garcia could potentially wind up in New York's bullpen instead of the rotation, but Garcia -- who can become a free agent on March 29 -- said on Saturday he would not accept an assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
"It's like, what am I supposed to do in Triple-A?" Garcia said. "I'm 34 years old, I've been in the big leagues for a long time. There's nothing to go to Triple-A to prove. It's make the team or not."
Garcia was one pitch away from a quality start on Saturday when he left a slider down and in to the Blue Jays' David Cooper, who punished him by belting a two-run homer off the right-field party deck.
That dented Garcia's line against Toronto to five runs in six innings, giving him a 5.93 ERA in 13 2/3 spring innings.
|"We're going to have to make a tough call. Who do we think is going to help us as we go forward, period? You have to bet on somebody."|
-- Yankees GM|
"I'm not going to make too much of one start, but obviously you have to continue to make pitches in this league," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes you have to change patterns, sometimes you don't. But the quality of the pitches have to always be there. He left some balls up and one down and in."
Garcia was also hurt by a play that left fielder Eduardo Nunez -- an infielder being tested out of position -- could not make on Yunel Escobar's double leading off the sixth, though Nunez also bailed Garcia out with a great catch in the fifth.
Never a particularly strong spring pitcher, Garcia is not sure how much damage this outing did to his cause.
"No idea, man. It's not my decision," Garcia said. "The good thing is, I pitched six innings. That's a good sign for me.
"Like I said before, if I don't make this team, [I'll be] probably somewhere. There's a lot of people out there that have seen me pitch."
Now it will be up to Colon -- who has a 3.00 ERA in nine innings -- to continue his surprising bid to break camp with the team after impressing while pitching for Tony Pena's winter ball club in the Dominican Republic.
"We got a lot of positive feedback," Cashman said. "Sitting in the scouts' section as we go on the road here. ... He's someone I know that people think might be able to help them."
Colon, who has not pitched in the Majors since 2009, will draw his next start on Monday against the Rays.
"We're going to have to make a tough call," Cashman said. "Who do we think is going to help us as we go forward, period? You have to bet on somebody."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.