TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have set their likely starting rotation for the season-opening series against the Astros in Houston, which projects to send Masahiro Tanaka out for his big league debut on April 4 against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi confirmed to reporters on Monday that the club has scheduled CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova for starts in the April 1-3 series in Houston. That would permit Tanaka to fly ahead of the team and be waiting to start on April 4 at Rogers Centre.
Tanaka, 25, signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees this past offseason, and he has posted a 3.00 ERA in four spring outings spanning 15 innings. The Yankees have been mindful of easing him into the workload of a five-man rotation after Tanaka pitched once per week for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan.
By lining up to pitch the Yanks' fourth game of the year, Tanaka would gain an extra day of rest his third time through the pitching order. The decision also splits up Kuroda and Tanaka, as Girardi has noted that their pitching styles are similar.
If the Yankees can stay on rotation, Tanaka would make his first Yankee Stadium start on April 9 against the Orioles, then be back on the mound in the Bronx for the April 15 game against the Cubs.
Girardi said that the Yankees have also reached a decision on their fifth starter, but he was not prepared to announce it publicly "because we haven't talked to everyone involved."
"I would love to tell you everything, but I haven't talked to the guys and it's not fair," Girardi said.
An official announcement is expected on Tuesday, but it is believed that Michael Pineda won the job after going 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA in four spring games (three starts). In 15 innings, Pineda permitted three runs (two earned) and 14 hits, walking one and striking out 16.
Girardi said that "it's possible" the Yankees could keep all three of the rotation runner-ups in the bullpen to begin the season. David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno have also been in competition to serve as the fifth starter.
"The important thing to me is taking what we feel is the best 12 guys," Girardi said. "It's something we've got to talk about a little bit [Tuesday]."
The manager added that the Yankees are close to naming the backup to starting catcher Brian McCann. Francisco Cervelli is believed to be well in the lead, having batted .455 (15-for-33) with four home runs and seven RBIs in 13 spring games.
"That's another thing we may wait to announce, but we're pretty sure of what we're going to do," Girardi said.
In other updates, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (sore right calf) is scheduled to play in a Minor League game on Tuesday at the Yankees' Himes Avenue complex, and infielder Brendan Ryan (pinched nerve) received treatment on Monday.
Girardi has said that if Ryan is unavailable to play on Tuesday, he would likely begin the season on the disabled list, opening a spot on the Yankees' Opening Day roster for another backup infielder.
In that event, Girardi has said that he would take two of three from the group of Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and non-roster invitee Yangervis Solarte, all of whom could serve as a backup to shortstop Derek Jeter.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.