TAMPA, Fla. -- Francisco Cervelli was stunned late in last year's camp when he was summoned to the manager's office and informed that he was being optioned to the Minors, but the Yankees will not be able to have that same chat this spring.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on Sunday that Cervelli is out of Minor League options, so he cannot be sent down without first clearing waivers. Cashman had previously said that he believed Cervelli had an option remaining.

Cervelli is competing for the Opening Day catching nod with Chris Stewart, who is also out of Minor League options, as well as prospect Austin Romine, who can be sent back to the Minors without being exposed to waivers.

Asked to handicap the catching race so far, Cashman quipped, "We've got two guys out of options and one guy with an option. I think the two guys are winning."

Gardner now frontrunner for center-field job

TAMPA, Fla. -- It wasn't how the Yankees would have scripted it to play out, but the organization's big spring center-field competition appears to have been settled in just one half-inning.

Brett Gardner became a strong favorite to serve as New York's Opening Day center fielder after Curtis Granderson suffered a fractured right forearm that is expected to keep him out of action until early May.

Gardner played center field in the Yanks' 2-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday and, speaking before the Yankees learned the severity of Granderson's injury, said that he was adjusting well to getting back in center field.

"It was all right; just five innings or whatever," Gardner said. "I felt OK out there. The one ball that got over my head, the ball that [Anthony] Gose hit, I froze for a split second off the bat and I thought I was gonna catch it, but it just kept going."

Gardner was unable to catch up to Gose's third-inning triple off Cody Eppley, but he won't lose any sleep over it.

"I think if I had gotten a really good jump, I still wouldn't have caught it," Gardner said. "I was probably three solid steps from getting to it. It just kept going, but I felt good."

Gardner led off for the Yankees in their home spring opener and, though he acknowledged the club also has legitimate choices like Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki, Gardner hopes that he can also be considered for the top spot in the lineup.

"I'd like to lead off. It'd be silly to say I love hitting ninth, you know?" Gardner said. " ... It's not something I'm really concerned with, but maybe if I have a really good spring it's something they'll consider."

Bombers bits

• Cashman clarified the schedule of Alex Rodriguez's rehab program. Rodriguez is scheduled to be in New York for physical therapy on his left hip from Monday through Thursday but is permitted to travel from Friday through Sunday, as he did this weekend by going back to Miami.

• Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes (bulging disc) started activity in the pool at the club's Minor League complex on Sunday, and is scheduled to have three to five days in the water. Cashman said that Hughes is at least a week from picking up a baseball.