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Barry M. Bloom

For listing Yanks, help is on the way

Despite 0-2 start, Girardi not biding his time waiting for stars to return

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NEW YORK -- Despite an opening of the season they'd rather forget, all the Yankees have to do is hang in there for a month and win their share of games until a group of key stars return.

Help is on the way in the shape of an aggregate 82 homers, 467 hits and 248 RBIs from last season when Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira all come back, possibly around May 1. That will have a major impact.

"I hope people aren't thinking that way," Yanks manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday night after his club fell behind the Red Sox by six runs on the way to a 7-4 loss. "Our goal is to win every series. You can't count on when someone is coming back. You have to go out and play well, and that's what our goal is -- to go out and play well."

The reality, though, is that the Yanks have lost the first two games to a rebuilt group of Red Sox by a combined score of 15-6. New York's starting pitching has been hittable and its offense has been missing the punch supplied by the above named injured players who are all in different stages of rehab and recovery.

Girardi's group dodged another brick on Wednesday night when starter Hiroki Kuroda had a line drive glance off the tip of his right middle finger. After hitting two and walking one of the next four batters, the righty had to leave the game. Girardi reported afterward that X-rays showed only a bruise and that if Kuroda can throw his scheduled bullpen session on Friday, he should be ready for his next start.

Even the usually upbeat Girardi admitted before the season opener on Monday that the team could ill afford any more injuries. Phil Hughes, another starter, missed most of the spring with a bulging disk in his back. He was cleared to make a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday against Pawtucket.

So add Hughes and his 16 wins from this past season to that comeback list.

As far as the others are concerned, Jeter is still recovering from the left ankle he fractured during last year's American League Championship Series and has no real timetable yet for a return. Granderson should be only weeks away after a pitch fractured his right forearm early in Spring Training.

Teixeira sustained what was ultimately diagnosed as a partially torn tendon sheath in his right wrist, hitting with a weighted bat off a tee before Team USA played an exhibition game against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch on March 5. The original prognosis was for him to be out from eight to 10 weeks.

Teixeira took grounders at first base on Wednesday and said he might be 10 days away from swinging a bat, which is very good news. Teixeira added that he's targeting May 1 for a possible return to the Yankees lineup, which might be a tad optimistic and ambitious. But as one Yankees official mused, at least he didn't say June 1.

Even better, Teixeira downplayed the notion that he might have to undergo season-ending surgery.

"That's only if it never gets better," Teixeira said, "but it's progressively gotten better, at this point. Absolutely it has. I can tell if it hurts doing anything. There are lots of tests that the doctors can do. And if any of those tests hurt, then I can't swing a bat yet."

About Jeter, the All-Star shortstop, who had 216 hits in 2012 when he played the last month of the season on a very gimpy foot that finally blew out in the last innings of Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers, Girardi said the club is taking it carefully.

Jeter played long toss and had strengthening exercises at the Yankees training complex in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, but he's at square one again when it comes to his baseball conditioning. He's eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday, but that won't happen.

He can't return to the Yankees lineup until he's game ready, and in Girardi's terms, that means back-to-back rehab games of nine innings each. Since the injury and surgery that put a plate and screws in the foot, Jeter has played in only five official spring games and had 11 at-bats. On two occasions, both in Grapefruit League play and in a Minor League game, Jeter had to be grounded because of soreness in the ankle. And that's where his situation stands.

As of now, the Yankees have every expectation that Jeter will rebound to be at least a facsimile of the player of old.

"Our expectation is that he is going to be an everyday player again," Girardi said. "It's just when is what we're concerned about, and how long it takes for him to get through what he needs to get through to be that everyday player."

Because of all this, the Yankees had four players in the lineup on Wednesday night who weren't even with the team last year: Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. Hafner and Wells homered, accounting for the four runs.

With Alex Rodriguez also out indefinitely, recovering from left hip surgery, the Yankees, at the moment, are physically and spiritually challenged.

It may be an unprecedented spate of injuries, but no one is going to feel sorry for the Yankees, and most of all, they shouldn't feel sorry for themselves, Girardi said.

"You could waste your time worrying or you could just go out and play every day and see what you can do," he said. "Hopefully we're going to get all these guys back, and they're impactful players. But if you start focusing on hold the fort, that's a negative thought. Go out and win series and play the best you can play. I still think we have impactful players [in the lineup now] and we need to get it done."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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