Notes: Abreu pleased with spring debut

Notes: Abreu pleased with spring debut

TAMPA, Fla. -- Bobby Abreu whipped his bat through the strike zone in the first inning on Tuesday, making contact with nothing, but also feeling nothing.

That was good enough for the Yankees right fielder, who made his Grapefruit League debut at Legends Field against the Phillies after three weeks on the sideline mending a strained right oblique.

Abreu went 0-for-3 in the Yankees' 2-0 victory over Philadelphia. His first rip at Phils righty Zack Segovia's inside offering may have proved fruitless, leaving Abreu stumbling and looking into the Yankees' first-base dugout, but at least it delivered some peace of mind.

"That was pretty good, to swing all the way through and not make any contact," Abreu said. "You can feel that one. That one was no problem at all. There was a good feeling about it."

Abreu was injured while taking batting practice on Feb. 26 at Legends Field, and the Yankees have been cautious bringing the 32-year-old outfielder along, fearing that any sudden movements could re-injure the oblique.

The veteran saw his first action as a designated hitter at home so the Yankees could control his performances. For a first examination, Torre gave Abreu a passing grade.

"He didn't look like he was hesitating at all," Torre said. "[I liked] the fact that he wasn't afraid to swing -- he was looking to get deep in the counts."

After an off-day for the Yanks, Abreu is penciled in to play the outfield on Thursday against the Reds in Sarasota, Fla., which will serve as a sort of second test.

Abreu said he has been taking ground balls, fly balls, moving side-to-side and making throws in workouts, so playing at Ed Smith Stadium shouldn't present much more of a challenge.

"There's a lot of relief right now," Abreu said.

While the Yankees have preferred to take a wait-and-see approach, Abreu has continued to insist that he will be ready for Opening Day. He figures that by playing every day, he can log between 30 and 40 Spring Training at-bats before the Yankees head north, giving Abreu enough time to get his timing ready to face Tampa Bay lefty Scott Kazmir on April 2.

"I'm just going to work the count sometimes," Abreu said. "Sometimes, you've got to be aggressive. You just go up there and do your thing, whatever you have to work out."

Pettitte questionable: Left-hander Andy Pettitte is questionable to take his turn in the rotation on Friday after back spasms kept him in the trainer's room on Tuesday, skipping a scheduled bullpen session.

Pettitte said that he had been performing squats exercises on Monday when his back "locked up," a sensation of stiffness that followed him home and did not dissipate by Tuesday morning. Pettitte said that he felt looser after continued treatment, but he missed a bullpen session and admitted that it might not be wise to try and make it up on Wednesday, the Yankees' lone scheduled off-day of the spring.

"I want to stay on schedule," Pettitte said, "but I also realize that it's early."

According to Torre, Pettitte was miffed by doubts that he would be available to take his next turn.

The 34-year-old left-hander is projected to make one of the Yankees' first two starts of the regular season against Tampa Bay, and Torre said the back spasms aren't likely to be a long-term issue that would jeopardize that.

Torre said that he feels Pettitte only needs one more Grapefruit League tune-up to be prepared for the regular season, and that any potential scratch the Yankees might make on Friday is more out of caution than concern over a larger injury.

"He was a little put off by the fact that we made a big deal of it," Torre said. "It's Spring Training. During the season, I don't think this thing would have been an issue for him at all. We have the ability to take a more cautious road here."

Cool change: Mariano Rivera's experiments with a changeup continued on Tuesday, with the 37-year-old closer repeating his offspeed offering to strike out Ryan Howard.

Torre said that Rivera -- who has allowed just three baserunners in seven innings this spring, retiring Philadelphia in order in the sixth inning Tuesday -- was "tickled" upon returning to the dugout.

"He's so overwhelming with his fastball and cutter, especially to a left-handed batter," Torre said. "To repeat the changeup -- and they were both pretty good -- he felt good about that."

Rivera said the changeup is just another weapon for opponents to consider, and one that is gaining trust in his arsenal. American League, look out.

"I'm throwing it more," Rivera said. "I just want to throw it. I feel confident in it. That's why I use it in practice. It's something to have."

Coaches' roundtable: After batting practice Tuesday, the Yankees' coaching staff and members of the team's brain trust -- including general manager Brian Cashman and special advisor Gene Michael -- gathered behind closed doors to swap thoughts on the projection of the 25-man roster at this point in camp.

"We'll do a number of these between now and the time when we have to make up our minds," Torre said.

With much of the club already locked in guaranteed roles, only a few true battles worthy of decision-making remain. Topics of discussion likely included the ongoing battles for backup catcher (Wil Nieves or Todd Pratt), right-handed-batting first baseman (Andy Phillips or Josh Phelps), and a possible second left-handed reliever (Sean Henn or Ron Villone).

"In all likelihood, there are going to be more names than spots," Torre said.

Coming up: After their only off-day of the spring, the Yankees travel to Sarasota, Fla., on Thursday to see the Reds, facing off at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Right-hander Carl Pavano (0-1, 5.63 ERA) is scheduled to start for New York, with right-hander Kyle Lohse (1-0, 1.59 ERA) going for Cincinnati.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.