Warren clear favorite to be Yanks' fifth starter

Warren clear favorite to be Yanks' fifth starter

TAMPA, Fla. -- Adam Warren has all but secured the fifth-starter's job on the strength of a strong spring, according to general manager Brian Cashman, though the Yankees are in no hurry to etch that decision in stone.

"I think there's a predictable favorite. I guess that's as far as I can go on that one," Cashman said on Wednesday. "Right now, if we had to make a decision today, I think we all know what that decision would be. There's a Secretariat right now in this race for me that's got a number of lengths ahead of the field."

Warren was said to be competing with a group that included Esmil Rogers, Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell and non-roster invitee Scott Baker to be the Yankees' fifth starter following a spring injury (strained right quad) to Chris Capuano, who will begin the season on the disabled list.

Warren has been sharp in four Grapefruit League starts, going 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA over 13 innings, leading into his team-leading fifth start on Thursday against the Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla.

Rogers struggled against the Tigers on Tuesday, permitting five runs (one earned) in three innings and could land in a bullpen role, as could Whitley. The Yankees have discussed having Mitchell and Baker continue starting with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

"Warren has certainly got a big lead in this, but we don't have to make that decision today," Cashman said. "When you're running the race, someone is certainly ahead of the field. Things can change radically all the time. We have to stay healthy, but if we had to make a call today, it would obviously have to be Warren via the competition."

Cashman said that he and manager Joe Girardi must also settle their backup-catcher situation, with John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine competing for the second string behind Brian McCann, and iron out the final relievers on the 25-man roster.

"I'm more focused on who are the final pieces," Cashman said. "The backup catcher, the remaining pieces in the 'pen and when we officially announce something that right now appears to be Warren."

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.