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TB@NYY: Pettitte turns in six strong, strikes out 10

The Yankees will get their captain back for Thursday's series finale against the Royals.

General manager Brian Cashman confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that shortstop Derek Jeter will return to the lineup for the first time this season after playing four Minor League games on a rehab assignment.

Jeter has missed the entire season while recovering from a broken ankle. He said Wednesday that he felt he was ready to return to big league action, though he admitted he thought the same six months ago, before it was realized his ankle had not healed properly.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to get back as soon as I can," Jeter said.

Jeter will join a Yankees lineup that had been scuffling prior to Wednesday's 8-1 victory, which snapped a three-game skid. New York entered the tilt having scored just one run in three consecutive games.

With Andy Pettitte on the mound on Thursday afternoon, New York will try to earn a split of the four-game set at Yankee Stadium.

Since Sept. 4, 2000, Pettitte is undefeated in 14 starts against the Royals, going 10-0 with a 3.43 ERA. In 25 career games (23 starts) against Kansas City, the veteran left-hander is 15-3 with a 3.40 ERA. He will face Ervin Santana, who is 5-7 in 15 regular-season starts against the Yankees and lost to the Bronx Bombers earlier this season in Kansas City.

Santana, 5-5 with a 2.90 ERA this season, has pitched well of late but received four straight no-decisions. He has pitched at least six innings in all 17 starts this season, putting together the longest active stretch in the Major Leagues.

Santana took a no-decision in his last start, against the A's on Saturday, working seven innings and allowing three runs on seven hits, including a sixth-inning home run to Josh Donaldson.

"Ervin was great -- he really threw the ball well," Royals manager Ned Yost said after that start. "He gave up the home run to Donaldson, but besides that, I thought he threw great."

Santana will likely be wary of Robinson Cano, who hit a homer against him on May 12 and already has hit two this series.

The Royals missed their latest chance to reach .500 with Wednesday's loss, but they're positive about their chances to get there before next week's All-Star break.

"I think we've made the statement that we can play with anybody and be competitive," designated hitter Billy Butler said. "We just need to stay consistent and keep it going."

One year ago, the Royals were 12 games under .500 after 88 games, and their overhauled starting rotation has been a big part of this season's success.

Having acquired Wade Davis and James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays and Santana from the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason, the Royals have posted the second-best ERA in the American League.

"The work ethic, the winning attitude that [Davis, Shields and Santana] bring into the clubhouse, [our hitters] want to bend over backward to score runs for them," Yost said. "They're doing everything they can, and earlier in the season, they put more pressure on themselves to produce than they needed to. Now, we're at a point where they've backed off. They know what a good swing feels like, and they're much more confident and more comfortable at the plate."

Royals: Coleman throws scoreless eighth
Royals right-handed reliever Louis Coleman entered in the eighth inning on Wednesday and struck out the side.

Coleman was recalled from Triple-A Omaha before the series and made his first appearance on Wednesday night. This is his second stint with the Royals after making four appearances in late May.

With Omaha, Coleman went 3-2 with a 1.61 ERA and six saves over 44 2/3 innings. He was named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team on July 2.

Yankees: Overbay comes through
First baseman Lyle Overbay hit a grand slam off Wade Davis in the sixth inning of Wednesday's win. It was his second homer of the series and just the second slam for the team this season.

Overbay went 1-for-4 with a strikeout and two groundouts. He is batting .244 for the season with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs through 81 games.

Worth noting
• Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain recorded his sixth outfield assist of the season on Wednesday, throwing out Cano at third after a seventh-inning double.

• Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer has three doubles in the series and 17 on the year.

• The Yankees are now 29-1 this season when scoring at least five runs.

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