Notes: Phelps staying, Phillips going?
Karstens feeling good after session; Villone struggling
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Behind closed doors, the Yankees' remaining roster questions have been all but answered. All that is left before the selections become public knowledge is for the players themselves to be informed.
Manager Joe Torre said that he expects to reveal the club's choices for backup catcher and right-handed-hitting first baseman following a session at the Minor League complex on Friday, and the skipper will also reveal the projected rotation for the first turn through.
"It's going to come down to, really, hoping you've made the right decisions," Torre said. "You spend so much time thinking about pretty much everything when it comes down to the end, every move that you make [is considered]."
One newspaper report indicated on Thursday that at least one decision may have already been finalized. Josh Phelps will be on the team. Citing a baseball official who asked to remain anonymous, the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger noted that Andy Phillips has been placed on outright waivers, meaning that by Friday, he could be claimed by another team or sent to the Minor Leagues by the Yankees.
Phelps, 28, was a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Orioles in December and compiled a standout offensive spring. With just two exhibition games remaining, he is batting .400 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.
"Getting to know him a little bit, he's very stable and has an idea for the game, which I feel is important," Torre said.
The 29-year-old Phillips missed time in camp to attend to his mother, who had been injured in an auto accident, and was in a race to make up for lost time, batting just .182 in 22 at-bats. He had one of his poorest games as a professional on Tuesday at Fort Myers, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against the Twins.
If he had made the team as of Thursday afternoon, Phelps was unaware.
"Nothing yet," Phelps said. "I'm still waiting like everyone else. One way or another, they've got to tell me. I've only got a couple of days left. I've had the mentality since day one that I'm putting all my eggs in one basket."
Torre likewise said that he wasn't ready to reveal his thinking as far as the backup catcher, except to say that he wants to carry a backstop who has enough defensive ability not to cost the Yankees a game. Between Wil Nieves and Todd Pratt, Torre feels that the Yankees have two players who fit that bill, with certain offsetting characteristics.
Nieves, 29, is younger and has worked well with Yankees pitchers this spring, but the 40-year-old Pratt has veteran presence, New York experience and the ability to pop an occasional home run off the bench.
"We'll find out soon," Nieves said after Thursday's game. "The suspense will be over."
Good feelings: As right-hander Jeff Karstens jogged past reporters on Thursday, seconds after completing a soft-toss session, he grinned widely.
"That's the best I've felt in a long time," Karstens said.
The 24-year-old still has a chance of making the Opening Day roster, something that did not seem likely when he left a start on Sunday after just two innings, his elbow tightness revealed only after he confessed it to Pratt, who in turn informed pitching coach Ron Guidry.
Torre said that the scenario of Karstens avoiding a stint on the disabled list is questionable, but the Yankees are more optimistic than they had been. Karstens reports that no pain or stiffness exists, and MRI and CT scans performed earlier this week came back clean.
Back to the Minors: The Yankees have a full afternoon of activity planned for Friday at the Himes Avenue Minor League complex. Both Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte are scheduled to pitch their final tuneups before the regular season.
Whereas Mussina's assignment was derived more to save him a bus ride to Lakeland, Fla., where left-hander Chase Wright will start against the Tigers, Pettitte's start is a point of interest for the Yankees.
It will be the left-hander's first game action since he was sidelined with back spasms on March 19, though he did throw a pair of bullpen sessions this week.
"I want to see Andy," Torre said. "I'm not worried about Moose."
In addition, the Yankees plan to have Chien-Ming Wang continue his throwing regimen by upgrading to a half-mound session at Legends Field.
Wang strained his right hamstring during post-workout sprints on March 23 and is expected to miss at least the first three weeks of April, though the Yankees have been encouraged by what appears to be a quick recovery.
Wang has not reported any issues following light tosses across the outfield with Guidry, which has prompted the Yankees to slightly accelerate the amount of work he is permitted to perform at this time.
"The fact that he's been able to throw without any discomfort makes it more realistic that he can come back without any issues," Torre said.
Goin' deep: Alex Rodriguez appears ready for Opening Day. The third baseman slugged his fourth spring homer in New York's 6-3 win over Toronto on Thursday.
Rodriguez -- who hit 35 homers last season -- went deep off former Mets farmhand Jason Scobie in the fourth inning, joining Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter among the Yankees who went deep.
"He just seems very comfortable," Torre said of Rodriguez. "He just goes up to the plate and has an idea of what he's going to do. You don't see a lot of check-swings."
Last gasp? One evening after he faced three Astros and retired none, left-hander Ron Villone surrendered a broken-bat single to Toronto's Lyle Overbay in the sixth inning on Thursday and was removed.
Villone, 37, is attempting to make the Yankees as a non-roster invitee, but his chances appear to have taken a hit in recent weeks. Torre has said that the Yankees will consider his service in 2006 as part of the big picture, but Villone's 14.40 spring ERA looms large as final decisions could be announced as soon as Friday.
Farmed out: The Yankees optioned outfielders Kevin Reese and Kevin Thompson to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Thursday's game. Both are expected to remain with the Major League squad until camp ends on Saturday.
This and that: Melky Cabrera was sent to the Yankees' Minor League complex on Thursday to log additional at-bats. Hitting coach Kevin Long believes that Cabrera has fallen into the habit of trying to pull the ball too much. ... Left-hander Mike Myers allowed two runs on four hits in two innings against the Devil Rays' Triple-A roster on Thursday. He struck out four.
Coming up: The Yankees play the 29th of 30 Grapefruit League contests on Friday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. Wright (0-0, 1.35 ERA) gets the starting call for New York, with Detroit sending right-hander Justin Verlander (0-2, 8.31 ERA) to the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.