ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When reliever Rafael Soriano appears in a rehab game for the Class A Yankees in nearby Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, he won't be alone.
Eric Chavez will be joining him.
After going through baseball activities for a few weeks at the Yankees' Minor League complex, Chavez was cleared to play in his first rehab game on Tuesday, though manager Joe Girardi wasn't sure if he'd play the field or serve as a designated hitter.
Chavez has been out since May 5 with a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot and had been working his way back slowly.
How much longer until he returns? With Alex Rodriguez recently undergoing right knee surgery and Ramiro Pena being placed on the 15-day disabled list after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Monday, the Yankees need Chavez back sooner than later.
"I mean, he's been out for a while, so I think he's going to need some at-bats," Girardi said. "The question is, how long can he go in those first couple of games? That's the question. If he was out a shorter period of time, it'd probably be easier to build him up. But we need him to be able to play nine innings when he gets here, so that can take some time."
Chavez -- winner of six consecutive Gold Glove Awards before injuries derailed his career -- was a valuable commodity as a reserve third baseman and lefty pinch-hitter before being placed on the shelf. In his first 17 games, the 33-year-old hit .303, with a .410 on-base percentage.
Soriano, out since May 13 with right elbow inflammation, would probably need a minimum of three rehab appearances before being cleared to return, though Girardi hasn't provided a specific number.