A-Rod could rejoin Yankees in 10 days

A-Rod could rejoin Yanks in 10 days

DETROIT -- It may not be Yankee Stadium, but Alex Rodriguez is getting closer. The slugger will make another major advance in his return from right hip surgery on Thursday, taking the field for his first extended spring game at 11 a.m. ET.

Rodriguez is expected to log four or five at-bats as a designated hitter in an intrasquad game at the Yankees' Minor League training complex in Tampa, Fla., where he has been working out since April 13.

"The fact that he's been able to do everything and not have any setbacks, you feel really good about it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Now you get to the point where he starts playing in games that you see how he physically feels after each day."

The club has officially stuck to a projected return date of May 15 for Rodriguez, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum and have a cyst drained on March 9 in Vail, Colo. But Dr. Marc Philippon, who performed the procedure, said on Wednesday that Rodriguez could rejoin the Yankees in 10 days.

"He's looking good. Looking awesome," Philippon told The Associated Press.

Girardi said that he wants to have Rodriguez back as a third baseman and would not rush the timetable to have him in New York as a DH or bench player. Girardi said that he is sticking to the May 15 date, but he acknowledged it could be sooner.

"To me, so much of it depends on him," Girardi said. "He knows his body and how he feels every day a lot better than I do. Is it possible we get him back earlier? It's possible. But so much of it depends on how he reacts to playing in games."

Philippon watched Rodriguez's workout on Wednesday, when the three-time American League MVP batted in a simulated game for the second successive day and faced Minor Leaguers Christian Garcia and Kai Liu, a left-hander from China who was signed by the Yankees in 2007.

A-Rod also took part in sliding drills for a second time by sliding onto a mat five times. He also ran the bases and took 112 swings in batting practice.

The third baseman looked so good that Philippon said "it's crystal clear" that Rodriguez will be as strong as usual when he returns to the Yankees.

In Rodriguez's absence, the Yankees have tried to patch third base with journeyman Cody Ransom -- now on the 60-day disabled list -- plus fill-ins Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena, to mediocre results. Girardi said that his plan is to put Rodriguez immediately as the cleanup hitter when he returns, which should be a welcome change.

"It'll be substantially different," Girardi said. "Our lineup gets a lot deeper with him in there. It's one thing if you add a guy to the lineup that's an eighth-place hitter or a ninth-place hitter. When you add a guy that's fourth and you move everyone down that's swinging so well, it becomes pretty long."

Meanwhile, injured right-hander Chien-Ming Wang is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday, and he will pitch in an extended spring game on Saturday, going up to 65 pitches. Wang, who is on the 15-day disabled list with weakness of the abductor muscles in his hips, is scheduled to make three or more Minor League starts.

The Yankees also announced that right-hander Ian Kennedy was evaluated on Wednesday at New York Presbyterian Hospital by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad and a vascular specialist, where tests showed a vaso spasm in his middle finger.

Kennedy will be treated with medication, and he's set to return to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he will wear a protective glove. The team does not want him to throw until he's reevaluated in New York on Monday.

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