Yankees to force Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova to compete for rotation spots

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With A.J. Burnett gone, expectations were that it would come down to Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes for one spot in the Yankee rotation. Manager Joe Girardi has other ideas, though, announcing Tuesday that CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were his only starters guaranteed spots. That leaves Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova competing for jobs.

“That’s kind of what we’re looking at,” Girardi said. “You sign Kuroda to start. You sign all these guys to start, but Kuroda has a big track history. There’s so much talk about Phil, but this guy was a dominant reliever in 2009 and a very good starter in 2010. Sometimes we focus on 2011 — and I understand why, because it was the most recent — but what if he’s an 18-game winner again? We’ve got a competition here. We have to iron out five spots, and sometimes the five you leave with aren’t the five you end up with. We’ve got time. There’s no rush.”

No, there’s no rush, but it’s hard to imagine the Yankees keeping Pineda or Nova out of their Opening Day rotation. The Bombers gave up Jesus Montero in the hopes that Pineda would be their long-term No. 2 starter, and all Nova did was go 16-4 last season.

Hughes, with the most bullpen experience of the group, looks like the top candidate to be left out initially.