TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher played five innings in a Minor League game on Friday and is close to returning to the lineup from a left groin injury.

Swisher has not appeared in Grapefruit League action since he had difficulty running out a ground ball in a March 14 game against the Blue Jays.

"I feel pretty good," Swisher said. "I feel like I'm almost ready to really take the chains off and just let it go. I just have to stay under control here for a little bit as long as we have the days to make that necessary."

Swisher said that he expects to be ready for Opening Day. He is not on the Yankees' trip to Kissimmee, Fla. on Saturday, but is scheduled to play against the Marlins in Miami on Sunday and Monday, as well as the Mets on Tuesday in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

"I'm almost to the point where I don't even think about it anymore, which is a good thing," Swisher said. "After you have an injury, that's the biggest thing, having the confidence to know that you're able to do all the things you used to be able to do. For me, I feel like I'm right on that doorstep. I'll be ready."

Garcia willing to relieve, but may join rotation

TAMPA, Fla. -- All but two of Freddy Garcia's 329 Major League appearances have come with him throwing the first pitch of the game for his team, so it's fair to say the veteran right-hander should consider himself a starting pitcher.

Yet as the Yankees' unsettled rotation was threatening to bleed into the weekend, Garcia said on Friday afternoon that he could be approached to pitch out of the bullpen, though he made it clear that he would prefer to be a starter.

"I don't really mind," Garcia said. "If it's good for the team, if I can help from the bullpen, I don't have any problem. But I've always been a starter. I did it last year a couple of times. I was having a really hard time because I have to warm up every inning with the outfielder to get ready."

It may no longer be an issue, since Michael Pineda is headed for an MRI on his sore right shoulder and almost certainly will not be on the Yankees' Opening Day roster. The development figures to confirm Garcia's place among the final three starters in New York's rotation, joining Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.

Garcia started in a Minor League game on Friday against the Pirates' Triple-A lineup, permitting a run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings. Garcia walked three and struck out five, firing 89 pitches. His final spring start will come on Wednesday against the Mets at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

"I was throwing strikes," Garcia said. "I tried to keep the ball down. Those guys, every pitch, they swing, but I was able to get them out. I threw everything. I'm happy. I threw like 85 pitches, and that's what I need. Do my work and wait for my next start on Wednesday."

Manager Joe Girardi said earlier on Friday that he appreciated Garcia's willingness to help the club in a relief role if needed.

"That's a great attitude by Freddy," Girardi said. "Freddy is very professional and has done everything we've asked since he's been here, and has been outstanding for us. That's nice to hear."

Cabral to undergo MRI, X-ray on left elbow

TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees left-hander Cesar Cabral left George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday with his arm in a sling and will have both an MRI and an X-ray performed Saturday after reporting pain in his left elbow.

Cabral, who had been a strong candidate to break camp in the bullpen, pitched a scoreless sixth inning against the Phillies on Friday in a 13-9 win. He completed the frame before telling anyone of the injury.

"That's the dangerous thing about this time of year; that's the true danger," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Everyone's trying to make a team.


 "It's what you dream about as a little kid, what you do all the work for. He was in a lot of pain. He's got two tests [Saturday], an MRI and an X-ray. It doesn't sound great."

Girardi said that Cabral "had a pretty good chance" of making the Yankees roster as a second left-handed reliever behind Boone Logan.

The 24-year-old Cabral had compiled a 1.59 ERA in 10 appearances spanning 11 1/3 innings, allowing 12 hits while walking two and striking out 12. The Yankees may now take Clay Rapada for that role instead.

"He's really down and he's concerned," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said of Cabral. "This has been a real bad day."

Bombers bits

• Yankees right-hander David Robertson pitched at the club's Minor League complex on Friday as he continues to work on building arm strength. Robertson primarily used his fastball in a two-inning stint and expects to be ready for Opening Day.

• The remaining Yankees pitching for Spring Training is slated to have Adam Warren on Saturday (at Astros), CC Sabathia on Sunday (at Marlins), Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes on Monday (at Marlins), Ivan Nova on Tuesday (at Mets) and likely Freddy Garcia and Michael Pineda on Wednesday (vs. Mets).

• For the first time in years, Mariano Rivera is making a Spring Training road trip. Rivera is listed on the Yankees' travel roster for the games on Sunday and Monday against the Marlins in Miami. All of the Yankees' regulars will make the trip, but many will be off for Tuesday's game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.