Utley, Howard, Asche strike early, Ruf homers late

Utley, Howard, Asche strike early, Ruf homers late

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Phillies' offense is very left-handed heavy, which makes right-handed hitter Darin Ruf a pretty important part of their 2015 roster. After Carlos Beltran's RBI single off Joely Rodriguez in the sixth inning tied the game for the Yankees, Ruf hit his first spring homer in the eighth to put Philadelphia up in a 7-3 victory over New York at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Thursday night.

Cody Asche also hit his first spring homer, while Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz stroked run-scoring singles off Yankees starter Esmil Rogers, who surrendered his first three runs of the spring in an underwhelming 3 1/3-inning outing. Chase Headley homered in the second for New York off Phillies starter Aaron Harang, and Stephen Drew, who went deep Wednesday, lashed a third-inning RBI double.

Asche's solo blast

Utley delivers as DH: Chase Utley went 2-for-2 with one walk and two runs scored. He has not played in the field yet because of a sprained right ankle, but Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said before the game that could be coming soon.

Utley's 1st-inning double

Fifth-starter competition underway for Yankees: Rogers has been considered one of the leading candidates for the last rotation vacancy, but he appeared shaky at times. Rogers said that he was trying to work on his curveball Thursday and has been huddling with pitching coach Larry Rothschild to fine-tune his mechanics. The Yanks like his live arm and he's expected to continue competing with Adam Warren, Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell and non-roster invitee Scott Baker.

Rogers discusses his outing

Harang's back on track: Harang allowed two hits and one earned run in three innings, which was progress. He had missed two of his first three starts this spring because of back soreness. The Phillies need Harang healthy with Cliff Lee lost for the season.

Harang fans Romine

Sir Didi wins a battle: Didi Gregorius has struggled mightily in his career against left-handed pitching, so he and hitting coach Jeff Pentland had to be pleased with a sixth-inning at-bat against Rodriguez. Gregorius battled, fouling off several pitches against the southpaw, before producing a ground-ball single up the middle.

Gregorius works for single

Brown suffers setback: Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown left the game in the bottom of the third inning because of soreness in his left Achilles. He said it has been bothering him for a couple of weeks. He will be examined by a team doctor on Friday.

Brown strikes out, leaves game

Ellsbury expecting to play in opener: Jacoby Ellsbury will not participate in baseball activities for about a week, but the center fielder said that he is "fully confident" that he will be able to play in the Yanks' April 6 opener against the Blue Jays. Infielder Brendan Ryan, who has been sidelined by a mid-back strain, is scheduled to make his spring debut on Friday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.

"He struggled a little bit with his breaking ball tonight, and Utley put some tough at-bats on him, which he's done to a lot of guys over the years. He stayed away from the big inning and kind of kept us in it. But we've seen him sharper." -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi on Rogers

The Phillies play the Pirates on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET in Bradenton, Fla., where right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has another opportunity to prove he deserves a spot in the rotation. Gonzalez has not shown that yet. He has a 9.00 ERA in three Grapefruit League appearances. "A little bit more consistency and a good solid outing would go a long way," Sandberg said.

Warren will get another chance to impress in the Yankees' competition on Friday as the Bombers visit the Tigers for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, Brett Gardner and Chris Young are scheduled to highlight the lineup that faces Detroit right-hander Alfredo Simon.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.