TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ New York pitcher Orlando Hernandez will make his spring debut Thursday when the Yankees play Philadelphia in Clearwater.

Hernandez missed his first scheduled start last Saturday with minor back stiffness. The right-hander threw 12-minutes problem-free from a bullpen mound on Monday.

``During the season, he probably would have been pitching on his normal turn,'' said Yankees manager Joe Torre before Tuesday night's game against Minnesota. ``In spring training, you have the ability to be a little more cautious. It was just a matter of time when that little stiffness got out of there. He had a good workout yesterday ... a normal workout and felt fine today.''

Thursday's start would keep Hernandez in line to start the Yankees' regular season opener April 3 at Anaheim. David Cone is expected to start the home opener April 11.

Ed Yarnall, who has also been slowed by back stiffness, threw off a bullpen mound for the second time in three days Tuesday and should make his first appearance this weekend.

``He looks like he's ready to pitch,'' Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said after Yarnall's 15-minute throwing session Tuesday. ``I like what I saw.''

Yarnall is expected to be the Yankees' No. 5 starter.

The early play of Roberto Kelly and the departure of suspended designated hitter Darryl Strawberry has prompted Torre to reconsider using a left-field platoon.

``We still got the left field-designated hitter situation to deal with,'' Torre said. ``To me that's probably one grouped together. The DH ... at least sometime ... could come out of the left field situation.''

Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer are among the left-field candidates. Torre said Spencer could also fill the DH role, and be an occasional replacement for right fielder Paul O'Neill.