New York will most likely carry on the rest of the season without Gardner, who is scheduled for arthroscopic surgery on his right (non-throwing) elbow next week. Gardner's 2012 seemingly ends with just nine games played, the last on April 17.
"They made it sound like we probably won't have him the rest of this year," said manager Joe Girardi after a 4-3 loss to the A's Thursday night. He learned Gardner was headed for surgery before the game. "Let's get it cleaned up and get him healthy."
The Yankees have been the best team in baseball record-wise without Gardner for much of the year, but he's still a missed presence.
"He's a guy that helps us a lot," Girardi said. "We've managed to amass this record without him for most of the year and we're going to have to do it. I wish he was coming back and I wish we had his speed element, but we're not going to have it. We're going to have to figure out how to do it without him."
The procedure is intended to remove inflamed tissue and will be performed by team doctor Christopher Ahmad. A team spokesperson said the day of the surgery was unspecified.
Doctors James Andrews and Timothy Kremcheck reviewed the MRI after Gardner's third setback came at the start of the week. The injury, which Girardi said did not develop into anything new following this most recent exam, stems from a diving catch on April 17 at Yankee Stadium in an 8-3 win over the Twins.
Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez, who have filled in well in left field, continue to shoulder the load for now. They're veterans -- the former is 35 and the latter 40 -- and a heavy workload could be a concern. Ibanez started in left Thursday against A's righty A.J. Griffin.
"The good thing about that is that there are enough left-handers that we see during the course of a season where these guys aren't playing seven, eight, nine days in a row," Girardi said. "It's three days. This is a rare stretch where we're seeing six out of seven right-handers. I'll watch Raul a little bit in that time."
Ibanez, 1-for-4 on Thursday, said he trained in the offseason not to be a designated hitter, but to play the field. Anything less, he believes, would have been cheating himself.
"If I was told that I was going to DH this winter, and I prepared to DH, that would mean that I'm slacking on my offseason conditioning," said Ibanez, who has 12 home runs. "I think, every offseason, especially the older you get, you don't train the same. You prepare to go out there all the time. I don't understand how to not do something a lot, at least most players don't."
Jones admitted that he's at times sore, but said that was normal in the course of things.
Dewayne Wise is a part of the outfield puzzle, too. Still, the Yankees will miss Gardner, who had a .345 on-base percentage in 2011, with 49 steals.
"I just talked to him on the phone. It's a big deal," Swisher said. "Gardy was kind of that little spark plug, you know? That guy's got the ability to lead the league in stolen bases. You lose out on a guy like that, but you know, we've been hit with the injury bug pretty hard this year. For us, we've just got to pull it all together. Keep doing what we're doing, keep fighting and just throw our thoughts and prayers out there that it'll be OK. From what I've heard, no one even knows what happened."
Gardner, who turns 29 in August, is arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason. He went 9-for-28 (.321) with a .424 on-base percentage, two doubles, five walks and seven strikeouts in his limited action. He was 2-for-2 in steal attempts.