ST. PETERSBURG -- Raul Ibanez found his stroke long enough to compile a small Spring Training hot streak, and that is an encouraging sign as the Yankees look to him for production as their designated hitter against right-handed pitching.
Ibanez, 39, was in New York's Opening Day lineup on Friday, batting seventh against Rays right-hander James Shields, and one inning after hitting an RBI groundout in the second, Ibanez turned a one-run deficit into a two-run lead with a three-run homer.
"Spring Training is over now, and everything that happened before today is really irrelevant," Ibanez said after New York's 7-6 loss. "I was definitely looking forward to playing this game. Unfortunately, we didn't win."
Ibanez wrapped the spring hitless in his final six at-bats, but he had gone 6-for-12 with two homers and six RBIs before that, leading the Yankees with three Grapefruit League homers.
"He didn't look good early, but of late, he's looked good," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "So what does it all mean? I can't tell you. All I know is he had 20 [homers] and [84 RBIs] last year.
"He can go out in the field defensively. He can still hit right-handers, and he can provide the long ball. So we put a $1.1 million bet that he can do this for us in 2012. But it's a bet. We'll find out. Do I think he will? Yeah, I do."
Ibanez finished the spring batting .150 (9-for-60). He hit .245 in 144 games for the Phillies last year.
"Right now, I'm really just thinking about our club and coming back tomorrow," Ibanez said. "[A good start] certainly helps. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and the next day, and starting the season."
Pineda plays catch, but April return unlikely
ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda will remain behind at the club's Minor League complex in Tampa, Fla., when the team goes north, and he's unlikely to pitch at the Major League level in April.
Pineda was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right rotator cuff tendinitis, retroactive to March 31, and he made about 25 tosses on flat ground during the Yankees' workout at Tropicana Field on Thursday.
"I think if he wouldn't have been able to play catch, we wouldn't have been too excited," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But he was able to play catch, and he felt pretty good."
W: Rodney (1-0) L: Rivera (0-1)
Girardi is not sure when Pineda will be able to get back on a mound and said it is "safe to say" the hurler will be lost at the big league level for all of the season's first month.
Girardi said that Pineda will stay with the club during its series against the Rays, and that exposure could pay dividends later in the year for the 23-year-old.
"I think it can help," Girardi said. "I think you can observe what goes on here the next three days to see what it's like to be a Yankee, in a sense. Spring Training was obviously different for him than what he was accustomed to, but the season, it even picks up a little bit more."
If healthy, Logan may be used by Yanks
ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees left-hander Boone Logan could be available in the bullpen for the club's Opening Day game against the Rays on Friday, manager Joe Girardi said.
"We're going to see how he feels," Girardi said of Logan, who had a bout of back spasms on Wednesday. "He said he feels pretty good, so maybe he'll be available. I don't know yet."
The Yankees are carrying two left-handed relievers to begin the season, with veteran Clay Rapada also on the roster. Logan was 5-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 64 appearances for New York last year.
Eduardo Nunez is expected to be in the Yankees' lineup on Saturday against Rays left-hander David Price. Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter will serve as the team's designated hitter.
Andy Pettitte is scheduled to start an extended spring game on Monday in Tampa. Girardi bumped into Pettitte at dinner on Sunday night, and the left-hander "said his arm felt great," according to Girardi.
Rodriguez entered play on Friday having hit safely in all seven Yankees Opening Days in which he has played, batting .400 (12-for-30) with four doubles, two homers and nine RBIs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the longest streak of Opening Days with a hit by a Yankee since Bernie Williams also had seven (1993-99).
On this date in 1973, Ron Blomberg became the Majors' first designated hitter, going 1-for-3 with a bases-loaded walk in a 15-5 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. On this date in 1974, the Yankees played their first home game at Shea Stadium while two years of renovations at Yankee Stadium were being completed. The Yankees beat the Indians, 6-1, behind a complete-game effort from Mel Stottlemyre.