KC@NYY: Gardner gets plunked, exits game later on

NEW YORK -- Two Yankees were removed from Wednesday's 8-1 win over the Royals with injuries, but neither should be out of the lineup for too long.

Designated hitter Travis Hafner left the game in the sixth inning with a left foot bruise, and center fielder Brett Gardner was removed after the seventh with a right leg bruise. X-rays were negative for both players, and both are considered day to day.

Gardner sustained his injury when he was hit by a pitch from Kansas City reliever J.C. Gutierrez in the sixth inning. He stayed in the game to play the field in the top of the seventh before Alberto Gonzalez replaced him to begin the eighth.

Hafner's injury occurred in the batting cages beneath Yankee Stadium. The veteran slugger was taking swings in the cages at some point during the fifth or sixth and fouled a ball off his left foot.

"I just turned it up as high as it goes, like 95 or 100 [mph], and the ball moves all over the place," Hafner said. "One ball just took off. I foul tipped it and squared up my foot pretty good."

Some Yankees players call the machine "The Humbler" because of the movement on pitches. Hafner said he likely wouldn't turn the machine up to the max speed again and would probably stop hitting in the cage during games.

"It doesn't happen very often," manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't get summoned to the cage very often because somebody's got an injury."

Gardner didn't register an official at-bat on Wednesday; he drew two walks, was hit by two pitches and scored two runs. Hafner was 0-for-2 with a flyout and a strikeout.

Neither injury is considered serious, but Girardi said he likely wouldn't know either player's status for Thursday's matinee against the Royals until before the game.

"It's hard to say," Girardi said. "I don't know. They'll probably both be a little sore tomorrow. We'll have to see."

Anticipation mounts as Jeter nears return

NEW YORK -- As it has all season, Derek Jeter's Yankee Stadium locker sits ready for his arrival, outfitted with all of the amenities the captain will need when he is eventually activated to the roster.

That day is not here, but it seems to be quickly approaching. With Jeter again in the lineup and playing shortstop for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, there is a sense that the shortstop could be putting his pinstripes on by the weekend.

CC Sabathia, for one, believes that getting Jeter back -- along with other injured Bombers like Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Francisco Cervelli -- can only help the current state of affairs.

"You hope so," Sabathia said. "Just having them in the lineup will hopefully change everything."

Not wanting to commit to an exact timetable, manager Joe Girardi has continued to downplay expectations placed on the 39-year-old Jeter, who has not played this season due to a pair of fractures in his surgically repaired left ankle.

"I'm sure the fans are going to be extremely excited he's back, when he comes back, and so will we," Girardi said. "We understand that he's one guy. He can only do what he's capable of doing."

Jeter entered Wednesday's game against Rochester 1-for-6 with two runs scored and four walks in three games, starting twice at shortstop and once as a designated hitter.

"It's hard for me to really evaluate him because I'm not seeing him," Girardi said. "You have to trust the people that are seeing him, the people that are watching him. That's how you make the decision.

"Derek would have had himself here last week. That's the bottom line. You have to trust the people that are watching him."

Girardi said that, in the event the Yankees activated Jeter before the All-Star break, he would take those days off. Girardi said he did not believe that a small amount of rest would be counterproductive, and he's looking for Jeter to play seven or eight innings at shortstop in back-to-back games.

"Seven or eight is fine with me," Girardi said. "That's what our guys do in Spring Training."

Yanks patient while A-Rod works off rust

NYY@MIN: Girardi on A-Rod returning to baseball

NEW YORK -- The Yankees can hear Derek Jeter all the way from Pennsylvania, professing his belief that he is ready to join the big league club.

They've heard no such commentary from Alex Rodriguez, who played again on Wednesday for Class A Advanced Tampa and went 1-for-3 with an RBI single, but manager Joe Girardi said that too much shouldn't be read into that.

"I think Alex feels that he's not to that level, that he's not ready to go," Girardi said. "What I've said in every rehab is when the player tells you he's ready, you make an evaluation.

"Some players are going to tell you they're ready the first day of Spring Training; that's just who they are. You have to make the evaluation, so it's kind of when we feel that they're ready. We'll evaluate it and see what it is. We don't think he's to that point yet."

Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told the New York Daily News on Wednesday that he is confident Rodriguez will return to the Bombers, and that they need his presence.

"He's just in the process of coming back," Steinbrenner said in Tampa, Fla. "It's going to take a little while for him to get the whole timing down and everything else. It's going to take a little time. He was popping the ball good in batting practice, so he just has to get his timing down with pitching again."

Steinbrenner told the Daily News he is not surprised that Rodriguez has needed some time to get his stroke back, coming off a second major hip surgery.

"He'll work his way back into it," Steinbrenner told the newspaper. "He seems nice and relaxed and really wants to come back. We'll see what happens. We could certainly use him, you know?"

Phelps expects to miss just one start

NYY@MIN: Phelps tallies five strikeouts over 6 1/3

NEW YORK -- Sidelined with a slight strain in his pitching forearm, Yankees right-hander David Phelps expects to resume throwing on Monday and is hopeful that he will miss just one start in the rotation.

"If I was laying in bed and I'd roll over, I'd just feel stiff," Phelps said. "I said something to [head athletic trainer] Stevie [Donohue] the other day and he said, 'Doc's going to want to see you.' And I saw him, got the MRI and he said the ligament looks great.

"So that's obviously the biggest relief, when you're talking about your arm. It's just a small strain in my forearm. With the All-Star break coming up, it was an easy decision. It's one start, and I'll get back out and be ready to go."

Phelps said that his forearm did not bother him when he was pitching, and that he is treating it with just rest and ice.

"We don't expect it to be a real long time, but I think you just have to take it day by day and see how he feels every day," Girardi said.

Military vet is Yanks' 'Tribute for Heroes' rep

NEW YORK -- Jonathan Popovich of Pompton Lakes, N.J., has been named as the Yankees' representative in the "Tribute for Heroes" campaign, a national initiative that recognizes veterans and military service members.


Fans nationwide cast their votes at TributeForHeroes.com to select 30 winners from a pool of 90 finalists. All of the winners, each representing one of the 30 Major League clubs, will be included in All-Star Week festivities and will be honored during pregame ceremonies leading up to the July 16 All-Star Game at Citi Field.

Popovich spent his active duty military service with the 82nd Airborne Division and deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of the initial airborne force. He has received many military honors, including a Combat Action Badge, the Bronze Star Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Ranger Tab.

He has spent the better part of the last decade working to make the lives of returning warriors better as a readjustment counselor, organizing dozens of programs and outreach events through his work at a local Vet Center.