Gardner has resumed a hitting program following arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow on July 24, and while he is not close to swinging a bat against big league pitching, the Yankees believe his speed can be an asset down the stretch.
"He can play defense if we needed him to play some defense," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's not going to be able to hit, but you have enough guys on your bench that if his spot came up in a crazy game, you could do something."
The Yankees would need to execute a 40-man roster move to activate Gardner, who played just nine games this season before injuring his elbow making a diving catch on April 17 at Yankee Stadium.
"I've been taking fly balls since the last homestand," Gardner said. "The last few days since the team's been home, I've been throwing to bases and running; obviously, keeping my legs in shape. My legs feel good, so I feel good."
Girardi said that Gardner's limitations wouldn't necessarily nix him from a potential postseason roster spot.
"I wouldn't say he's completely ruled out," Girardi said. "I'm sure it's something that, if you're sitting around the table, you would talk about it."
Gardner said that he is currently taking light swings with zero contact and is hoping to elevate to batting practice within the next two weeks. Hitting against live pitching, for now, is not an option.
"I think if the timetable works out, maybe the last few days of the season I could be ready for that, but there's no need in me even speculating on that," Gardner said.
"I know what my role is. I'm obviously excited to do that. I realize with that sort of thing, I might not play for a week. It just depends on how the games go and what kind of situations pop up, but I'm ready if they need me."
Gardner said that he has been able to practice bunting, dropping 60 to 80 bunts one recent afternoon, but Girardi said that wouldn't likely be a useful skill in games since opponents will know Gardner that isn't permitted to swing the bat.
"That's kind of a tough situation, because if people know he's not supposed to swing, you can basically play 30 feet away," Girardi said.