ARLINGTON -- And so Wednesday turned into Thursday, and for Melky Cabrera, three days off turned into four. Yankees manager Joe Girardi's lineup card for the finale in Texas did not include Cabrera, marking his fourth straight absence and begging the question of precisely when he might play again.
Cabrera said he expected to start in center field for Friday night's opener in Anaheim, and Girardi confirmed that would likely be the case. Girardi never planned on four days of rest, he said, but somehow it happened. And perhaps Cabrera might be better for it.
"I think Melky's a better offense player than he's displayed," Girardi said. "And I think that Melky can have a strong last 50 games for us -- I really do."
To endure the heat of Texas, Girardi formulated a plan to shuffle his designated hitter each night. As long as the DH is a regular outfielder -- Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu or Xavier Nady -- then there's room for Cabrera in center field. But on Wednesday, Girardi used Alex Rodriguez in that slot, and on Thursday, he selected Derek Jeter -- which left Cabrera on the bench both nights, unable to do much about his 0-for-13 slump.
"It's OK," Cabrera said. "A day off, but no problem."
The Yankees have the flexibility to consistently bench Cabrera simply because Damon's health is sound. With Damon available to play center field on a semi-regular basis, the Yankees have an able sub for Cabrera, whose defense kept him in the lineup for the first four months of the season.
Yet Cabrera was also hitting then, knocking five of his eight home runs in April. Since that time, he has stopped hitting even singles, producing a .240 average.
There's not much he can do about that on the bench, but Girardi felt it was wiser to give veterans Rodriguez and Jeter partial days off in the Texas heat than to give Cabrera another start in center. So the entire four-game set came and went, and Cabrera did not start a single game.
"It's a day-to-day decision on our whole lineup," Girardi said. "We're going to put out the best team that we feel has a chance to win that night."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.