- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Michael Pineda is set to return to the majors - as part of the New York Yankees’ rotation.

Manager Joe Girardi announced Tuesday that Pineda will be the team’s fifth starter.

Pineda, who missed the past two seasons after right shoulder surgery, beat out David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno.

“I feel so happy,” Pineda said. “When I come to camp, I come here for working hard and pitching good games.”

Pineda admitted that were times he was sad during his two years on the disabled list. He’d been an All-Star as a rookie in 2011, then spent his time trying to work back toward the big leagues.

“It’s hard when you have an injury,” Pineda said. “I love pitching, and I love the team. When I was sad, somebody would tell me, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be OK. Just keep working hard every day. You’re coming back.’”

The 25-year-old righty has given up three runs and struck out 16 over 15 innings in four games. He’ll make his first regular season start April 5 against Toronto.

“He threw extremely well,” Girardi said. “It was what we wanted to see from him. He improved each outing. At times, he was dominant.”

Phelps and Warren are both expected to work out of the bullpen. Nuno also remains in the mix for a relief spot.

Girardi said Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka will his major league debut April 4 at Toronto. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova are to start the opening series at Houston next week.

“Nothing too special,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I’m just going to prepare for that day. I’m not thinking too much (about it), but as we get closer to the game, I’m sure excitement will come along.”

Jacoby Ellsbury, sidelined the past 1½ weeks by right calf tightness, resumed playing and went 1 for 4 with two walks as the designated hitter in a minor league intrasquad game. He had an RBI single and struck out once.

“Everything felt good,” Ellsbury said. “I’m very pleased. Today was the first step in the sense of just playing in a game. I’ve been running, sprinting, doing all that stuff.”

Ellsbury expects to be ready for Tuesday’s opener.

“I feel like I just could hop right in there and play right now,” Ellsbury said.

Girardi said he feels pretty good about Ellsbury being able to play in the opener, but added that can’t be absolutely sure yet.

Ellsbury will play again in a minor league game Wednesday and could start in the outfield.

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