Rather than face relegation to the bench, though, Matsui remained in the lineup as the team's designated hitter and was so productive that on Monday he was named the American League Player of the Week.
"I wasn't even considering how well he was going to play," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "I was just wondering whether he'd play, period. I never envisioned him being in the lineup [to begin the week]."
Indeed, Matsui shone brighter than any other player in the league, leading the Yankees to a 6-0 record and sweeps of the Pirates and Cubs. He batted .455 (10-for-22) with three home runs and an AL-leading 10 RBIs, posted a .538 on-base percentage, led the league with a 1.000 slugging percentage and extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
He was so good as the Yankees' DH, in fact, that Torre joked on Friday that Matsui wouldn't return to the outfield when his ankle was fully healed.
"Never again. He sent his glove home," Torre said. "Matsui has been remarkable."
Though it may have seemed unusual that Matsui was able to churn out such impressive numbers with a bad ankle, Matsui was nonplussed.
"I wasn't surprised, because I was feeling pretty good in St. Louis with my hitting," he said. "I'm happy that the injury didn't affect my hitting."
Matsui's performance over the week was so impressive that he earned praise from both teammates -- third baseman Alex Rodriguez called Matsui "one of the most impressive players I've played with in my career" -- and opponents.
"Matsui, [that] guy killed us," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said Friday. "You've got to do something to stop him. This guy can hit. It didn't seem to matter if you brought in a left-hander or right-hander, he's going to hit whoever you bring in there."
Matsui's teammate, Mike Mussina, also was nominated for Player of the Week honors for his efforts, which included a 2-0 record and a 1.17 ERA over 15 1/3 innings.
Other nominees included Rangers second baseman Alfonso Soriano, who batted .400 (10-for-25) with four homers and 10 RBIs; Devil Rays third baseman Jorge Cantu, who batted .455 (10-for-22) with two homers and five RBIs; and Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, who batted .440 (11-for-25) with three homers and eight RBIs.
None of them, however, had an ankle sprain that hurt so good.
Matt LaWell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.