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Bartolo Colon goes 6 strong, but Yankees lose to Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Bartolo Colon made another strong
bid for a spot in the Yankees' rotation, allowing one run over six
innings in New York's 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday
night.

Colon is competing with Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Sergio Mitre for two openings behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil
Hughes.

The 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner gave up two hits and struck
out five during his 64-pitch outing. In four exhibition starts, the
burly right-hander has allowed four runs over 15 innings.

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 2 with a walk.
A-Rod had gotten a hit in each of his other 13 spring training
games.

Tampa Bay fifth starter Jeremy Hellickson gave up three hits,
walked one and struck out two in four scoreless innings. Kelly Shoppach tied it at 1 on a sixth-inning homer off Colon.

Dan Johnson put the Rays ahead 2-1 on a homer off promising
Yankees left-hander Manny Banuelos in the seventh.

Hellickson, slowed early in camp by tightness in his right
hamstring, hasn't allowed a run in two of his three starts. He
developed a blister on the ring finger of his pitching hand during
his second outing, but it didn't bother him in throwing 49 pitches
against the Yankees.

"Arm felt good. Hamstring felt really good and blister wasn't a
factor," Hellickson said, reiterating that he expects to be ready
to start the season in the rotation.

Colon hasn't pitched in the majors since being released by the
Chicago White Sox in September 2009 after going 3-6 with 4.19 ERA
in 12 starts. He did pitch this past offseason in the Dominican
winter league.

"I've been pleasantly surprised from what I've seen from this
guy," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "He's kind of reinvented
himself. He can still throw to 93 [mph], but you're not going to
see that 97-98 we used to see in the seventh and eighth innings
when we faced him. He's being considered for one of the spots,
absolutely."

The Yankees' long reliever could come from the
back-of-the-rotation competition.

Nova is considered the front-runner for one rotation slot.

"That's a good question," general manager Brian Cashman said,
smiling. "I'm not going to answer it. We haven't made a final
decision yet. We'll have to make it soon."

Mitre is scheduled to pitch against Baltimore on Tuesday. Garcia
will pitch in a minor league game Thursday, which is an off day for
the Yankees.

"Freddy is what he is," Cashman said. "As long as he stays
healthy, I know what he can do at the major league level."

New York also continued experimenting with its lineup, having
Brett Gardner bat first and placing Derek Jeter in the two-hole for
the second consecutive game.

Gardner drew a walk to open the sixth, stole second and went to
third on Jeter's grounder. After Jorge Posada walked, Rodriguez
made it 1-0 on an RBI grounder.

Rodriguez has driven in at least one run in each of his last
eight games.

Cashman and Girardi talked about the Opening Day lineup before
the game.

"I think your best hitters should get the most at-bats,"
Cashman said. "You have to put personalities into play. There's
the human element and what makes the most sense."

Game notes
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera allowed one run and two
hits over two innings in a minor league game. The right-hander, who
said he will pitch again Wednesday, has not given up a run in three
innings of major league exhibition games. ... Posada, switching
from catcher to DH this season, started at first base. ... Yankees
INF Eric Chavez has spasms in his right calf and won't play again
until Friday. No tests were planned. ... The Rays announced plans
to donate $10,000 to benefit the Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children
in Emergency Fund.

AP-NY-03-21-11 2204EDT