TAMPA, Fla. -- Scott Sizemore already had his crossword puzzle about halfway completed at his clubhouse locker on Thursday morning. You tend to develop those kinds of skills after two serious knee injuries.
"I've had a lot of time on my hands the last few years," said Sizemore, who is hoping to find a roster spot as a Yankees infielder after being forced to sit out most of the last two seasons.
Sizemore tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while with the Athletics in February 2012, then re-injured the ACL last April, with a partial meniscus tear. He said that he has been doing more conditioning and is almost ready to get on the field.
"There's no pain or anything to really restrict me," Sizemore said. "It's just a matter of getting out on the field and doing it. They've been kind of taking it easy on me, hitting them maybe a step or two to my left or right. I'm just trying to progress to more and more movement. So far, so good."
Sizemore, 29, came up through the Tigers' chain as a second baseman and was moved to third base by Oakland in 2011. He said that he expects to be capable of playing both positions at a high level, which could help him challenge Eduardo Nunez for a roster spot.
Sizemore said that he has outs in his Minor League contract for May 1 and Aug. 1, and would go to Triple-A if he does not make the team out of camp. One encouraging sign in Sizemore's favor: He was issued uniform No. 24, last worn by Robinson Cano.
"That's some pretty serious shoes to fill, but I'm glad they at least gave me a really good number," Sizemore said.
Pettitte, Mo inspire Kuroda to nix retirement plans
TAMPA, Fla. -- Hiroki Kuroda seriously considered retirement again this winter, and said that he gave it more thought than ever before. In a way, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera brought the right-hander back for another season.
"With Andy and Mariano gone, I'm still a year younger than Andy and a few years younger than Mariano," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "That sort of pushed me to probably go for one more year."
Kuroda turned 39 in February, and he said that the biggest thing on his mind was the age issue. He had been inspired in particular by Pettitte, who gave the Yankees 185 1/3 innings as a 41-year-old last season.
"It was encouraging for me to see a pitcher who's older than me to go out there and pitch in a rotation for a whole season," Kuroda said. "Now that he's gone, I'm really surprised. His presence was really big for me."
Stationed in neighboring lockers at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Kuroda and Pettitte struck up a friendship that made it past any language barriers, as well as the fact that they threw with opposite arms.
They often discussed their various pitches and approaches against hitters, and Kuroda said that "to not have him around the clubhouse is something I'll miss."
Kuroda was the Yankees' best pitcher for most of last season. He was 11-7 with a 2.33 ERA through his first 24 starts, but he tailed off from Aug. 17 on, going 0-6 with a 6.56 ERA in his final eight starts.
"If I knew the answer to [why], it wouldn't last for six weeks," Kuroda said. "I would imagine it had something to do with the quality of my pitches. Each of my pitches, the quality declined a little bit."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has acknowledged that he may have pushed Kuroda too hard with the club fighting to stay in playoff contention. Kuroda said that he is proud to have exceeded 200 innings in each of the last three seasons, but understands that it may be more important to finish the season strong.
"The past three seasons, I've pitched 200 innings," he said. "It has been a big motivation for me personally. Obviously, I want to achieve that. But at the same time, it's a team sport, and whatever is good for the team is something I want to follow."
Matsui arrives at Yankees camp as special guest
TAMPA, Fla. -- One of Derek Jeter's favorite teammates has arrived, just in time to see the Yankees captain begin his final Spring Training. Hideki Matsui put the pinstripes back on Thursday, watching over the team's workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The 39-year-old Matsui is expected to be with the Yankees as a special guest instructor for the next two weeks. Another of Jeter's good friends, Jorge Posada, is due to arrive later in camp.
"I only saw [Matsui] for a minute, so I'll get on him a little bit when I see him more," Jeter said. "We had meetings early, so I didn't have a chance to talk to him as much as I'd like. It seems like every year there's more and more ex-teammates that are turning into coaches or honorary guest special instructors."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that having Matsui in camp should be beneficial to Masahiro Tanaka, as the 25-year-old right-hander experiences his first spring in the big leagues.
"I think he can tell him about New York," Girardi said. "I think he can share a lot of his experiences in New York and what a great place it is, and some of the adjustments that he made as a hitter. Whenever a pitcher talks to a hitter or vice versa, you can still learn from them, because it's what they think about."
• Girardi was an interested observer as right-hander Michael Pineda threw a bullpen session on Thursday morning. Girardi said that Pineda is healthy and seems to have improved the consistency of his delivery from two springs ago.
"It's coming out easy," Girardi said. "I don't see him overthrowing, and the stuff [is] sharp, hitting his spots with some sink and some run to it. His slider looks good, his changeup looks good. His mechanics, to me, look much more polished than they were a couple of years ago. He's had a lot of time to work on it and to think about it."
• Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren threw live batting practice early on Thursday morning. David Phelps has also faced hitters, which indicates that they are lining up to pitch in the Yankees' first exhibitions of the spring.
• Alfonso Soriano has the flu and was excused from Thursday's workout, Girardi said.