TAMPA, Fla. -- When Kelly Johnson was dropped into duty at third base with the Rays last season, he would silently wish for the first ball of each game to be hit his way, just to reduce his anxiety about the new position.
So naturally, with the Yankees watching him closely as a primary option to serve as the Opening Day third baseman, no balls were hit his way during Tuesday's 8-3 win over the Florida State Seminoles.
"It definitely kind of wakes you up, but it's a good thing," Johnson said. "Any time you're a little uncomfortable, you're paying attention to a lot of things, and you're probably more focused than you are at any time."
Johnson played 16 games at third base in 2013, pitching in while Evan Longoria battled an injury, and is much more comfortable there this spring. He has been working with infield coaches Mick Kelleher and Jody Reed, as well as guest instructor Willie Randolph.
"I think the one thing that's kind of stood out that I've had to concentrate on is catching the ball, and being in the best position to get the throw to first as strong and accurate as possible," he said.
Most of Johnson's big league experience has come at second base, though he has also seen time in left field and at first base. He tried to learn more about third base from Longoria when they were teammates.
"I was all in his ear constantly," he said. "There's not a lot that can play the position better than him, so there were certainly some things that I can remember him talking about. You take what you can from guys that have experience. All the coaches, they're coaching here for a reason."
Tanaka's spring debut set for Saturday
TAMPA, Fla. -- Touted right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will make his Spring Training debut on Saturday, as he is scheduled to appear in relief during the 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
CC Sabathia will start that game, the first outing of the spring for the probable Opening Day starter. Hiroki Kuroda is also scheduled to come out of the bullpen.
Manager Joe Girardi said that it was pitching coach Larry Rothschild's decision to feature all three starters in the same game for the first outing. They will then fall into a more arranged rotation as the spring continues.
"As I've talked about, we're going to space them out," Girardi said. "Tanaka's starts are going to space out a little bit more in Spring Training."
Girardi anticipates that Sabathia, Kuroda and Tanaka will each be asked to throw two innings, or about 35 pitches, against Philadelphia.
"The first outing, that's what we allow them to do," he said. "The big thing is, we want them to start an inning, make sure they start an inning."
Tanaka has thrown two batting-practice sessions this spring. After the most recent one, on Monday, he said through an interpreter that he feels "pretty much ready to throw in a game."
McCann believes collision rule a positive step
TAMPA, Fla. -- When catcher Brian McCann was run over at home plate in July 2008, leaving him with a concussion, the hit was more or less chalked up as the accepted cost of doing business behind the plate -- one of the risks of playing a dangerous position.
McCann believes that the experimental rules announced this week by Major League Baseball could reduce such incidents, and that his particular play -- a helmet-to-helmet hit with Shane Victorino, then of the Phillies -- would have been avoided.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," McCann said. "For catchers it's that throw from right field [where] you're in no-man's land. You can't see the runner. You don't know if he's going to slide or run you over."
The newly added Rule 7.13 directs that a runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate to initiate contact, and also states that unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, he cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score.
It does not completely outlaw collisions at home plate, leaving some discretionary room to umpires, who will also be able to use the replay system. However, runners who slide and catchers who provide a lane to the plate will never be found to be in violation.
"The rule is designed to get rid of the senseless collisions," manager Joe Girardi said. "Obviously, as a catcher, if you choose to block home plate, they can run into you. But if you're not blocking home plate, and you have a lane to slide, they want you to slide."
Catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered a fractured wrist and concussions behind the plate, said on Tuesday morning that he wants to learn more about the specifics of the new rule.
"I always say I've got to take care of myself a little more, but the way I learned in the Dominican was that this is my house, and I've got to take care of my house," Cervelli said.
McCann does not believe that the new rule will alter much of his approach in terms of blocking the plate or receiving throws.
"You give them the plate, and when you get the ball, just make the tag," McCann said. "Let your instincts take over and be in the right position, and everything should be fine."