Notes: Matsui inching closer

Notes: Matsui inching closer

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui has been slowed by neck stiffness and is hoping to take batting practice on Wednesday or Thursday.

The 33-year-old, who has not played this spring due to rehab from right knee surgery, went through a conditioning program on Tuesday that included sprints, jogging and stretching. He has not batted since his neck tightened while taking BP on Sunday.

"It's much better now," Matsui said through an interpreter Tuesday.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Matsui is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut early next week.

Mo on the side: Mariano Rivera remains on track to make his first game appearance on Friday against the Astros after throwing a 36-pitch batting-practice session on Tuesday. The Yankees' closer has been placed on a slower program than in previous years and anticipates throwing only nine or 10 innings all spring.

Duncan go-nuts: Shelley Duncan is taking the idea of a strong start to heart. The 28-year-old is 6-for-9 with eight RBIs in early exhibition action, singling and doubling in the Yankees' rain-shortened 2-0 victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday.

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"I'm lucky that it's early and the pitchers are leaving a lot of balls out over the plate," Duncan said.

Bombers bits: The Yankees renewed Joba Chamberlain's contract. All players on the 40-man roster are signed for 2008. ... Robinson Cano was left off the travel list for Tuesday's game due to a dentist's appointment to fill multiple cavities. ... The Yankees will hold a 3 1/2-inning intrasquad game on Wednesday morning at Legends Field due to Tuesday's rain-shortened game. Jeff Marquez, Chase Wright, Alan Horne and Mark Melancon will pitch.

Coming up: The Yankees will return home to Legends Field on Wednesday to meet the Twins. Right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-0, 1.89 ERA in 2007) will make his first start of the spring for New York, opposite Minnesota right-hander Kevin Slowey (0-1, 16.20 ERA in 2007). First pitch is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. ET.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.