Bruney not going to rush his return

Bruney not going to rush his return

NEW YORK -- At some point during Spring Training, Brian Bruney began to realize that with every pitch he threw, he was risking "blowing a ligament and being out a year and a half." He felt pain in his right elbow with each and every toss, yet he ignored it.

Bruney's stubbornness didn't haunt him in any form other than a reoccurrence of the injury, a flexor muscle strain of his right elbow, which sent him to the 15-day disabled list late last month. But it did prompt his bosses to raise their eyebrows and usher him aside earlier this week.

"They finally sat me down and told me that I can't be John Wayne, and I can't try to tough it out," Bruney said. "It's a good thing we had that talk, because I don't think I would have been completely honest. I feel the pressure, and I think everyone feels the pressure."

That pressure to return from injury should stick with Bruney for some time. The most consistent Yankees reliever not named Mariano Rivera, Bruney revealed on Wednesday that he had suffered a setback in his rehab, and that he would not rejoin the Bombers for at least another two weeks.

Had Bruney been healthy, he would have been eligible to come off the DL on Thursday.

"It's not what you want," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We were hoping it would just be a short stint."

Bruney last threw a baseball on Saturday, and he was "really surprised" to feel pain in his right elbow while playing catch -- it didn't even hurt, he said, to pick up his daughter. The righty is scheduled to attempt another game of catch on Thursday, but this time, he won't be throwing with an immediate goal in mind.

"My goal was to get back in those 15 days," Bruney said. "And it's not looking like that's going to happen."

Which leaves the Yankees with a predicament similar to the one they've faced in recent days. The bullpen, quite simply, has faltered, and Girardi even admitted that he was depending to a certain extent on Bruney's return.

With Bruney now out until at least mid-May, the Yankees will instead depend on players such as Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez and Jonathan Albaladejo, none of whom have been particularly effective this season. One potential replacement, Brett Tomko, has been performing admirably at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But the Yankees, despite their rather conspicuous bullpen struggles, have not yet made the call.

Tomko, a former starter for eight big league teams, has allowed just one run in 13 innings, striking out 15 and walking four. Agreeing with the assessment that Tomko's experience could aid a struggling bullpen and admitting that his current relievers are costing the team chances to win, Girardi nonetheless said he wasn't sure if and when Tomko might join the bullpen.

Yet he did note that with Alex Rodriguez's possible return to the club this weekend, changes are on the horizon.

"Our roster could change dramatically in the next couple of days," Girardi said.

Bruney will not be on it, his return date now pushed back to mid-May. But the Yankees have come to accept that, and Bruney is beginning to accept it, too.

"I'm not being fair to my teammates if I'm going out there injured," Burney said. "I'm not any good injured. I know everybody's watching the same baseball I have, and nobody's done the job that they want to do, so it's easy to put some pressure on yourself to come back and for other people to put pressure on you to come back. It's just not smart."

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