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Barry M. Bloom

For Yankees, season is about to begin for real

Teixeira, Youkilis, Pettitte ready to join club after dealing with injuries

For Yankees, season is about to begin for real

NEW YORK -- The Yankees were swept by the Mets in their four-game Subway Series this week, but now the team's executive branch hopes that with the return of a trio of star veteran players, the season is about to begin for real.

While losing four straight to the Mets was disappointing, the reaction was measured, especially considering the team of overachievers the Yankees have been putting on the field.

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"I think the team has been remarkable," Randy Levine, the club's president, said as the Yanks lost, 3-1, to their intra-borough rivals Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. "All along the job was to keep us close until the troops got re-enforced and some of our great players came back. They've done the job and hopefully things will straighten out tomorrow night when some of our mainstay players come back."

Though nothing was made official after the game, Levine spoke as if it was a fait accompli that first baseman Mark Teixeira and third baseman Kevin Youkilis will be in the lineup on Friday night for the opener of a three-game set against the Red Sox.

Despite losing five games in a row, the 30-23 Yankees trail Boston by only two games in the American League East.

The Yanks were waiting on how Youkilis and Teixeira fared, playing their second of back-to-back rehab games at Double-A Trenton on Thursday night. Both went 1-for-3 with singles, Youkilis knocking in a run with his safety.

"If healthy, they're both supposed to be in the lineup tomorrow night," Levine said.

Andy Pettitte will follow them by three days when he comes off the disabled list for a scheduled start in the Bronx against the Indians on Monday night.

Pettitte has been on the DL since coming out of a game on May 17 with a muscle strain in his upper back. Teixeira hasn't played a regular-season game and has been sidelined since straining a tendon in his right wrist on March 5. Youkilis has played one game since April 20 because of a lower back strain.

In the old days when principal owner George Steinbrenner was still alive, a four-game sweep at the hands of the Mets would've caused a seismic shock in Yankees headquarters. Levine, watching the game from the club's suite, took the sudden downturn in stride and said he's been satisfied with the ballclub's play.

"Oh, I think the team has been exceptional," Levine said. "They've been scrappy, they've had a lot of heart. They've done everything that's been asked. So far we're in the thick of it. Every team goes through a down cycle. We're going through a little one now, but these guys have done a good job. Hopefully Tex and Youk will come back. Shortly thereafter, Andy will come back on Monday, hopefully Michael Pineda and Francisco Cervelli in a couple of weeks, and Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and [Alex Rodriguez] after the All-Star Game."

Just having Youkilis, Teixeira and Pettitte back will activate $47.125 million of the Yankees' 2013 player payroll. Jeter, Rodriguez and Granderson represent $51 million more.

As ill-fortune would have it for the Yankees this year, Granderson had his right wrist broken by a pitch on Feb. 24 at Tampa, Fla., in the second exhibition game of the spring. He returned on May 14, and playing in his eighth game back, had his left pinkie broken by a pitch this past Friday night in a game against the Rays in Florida.

For added measure, last month Cervelli also had his right hand fractured by a pitch.

Jeter, recovering from a left ankle he shattered in the Game 1 of the AL Championship Series this past October, re-fractured a bone in that surgically repaired ankle during Spring Training, trying to make it back in the lineup for Opening Day. He has a plate and screws in the foot and the setback has cost him half the season, at the least.

A-Rod has been out since surgery to repair his left hip Jan. 17.

Granderson had surgery on the pinkie this week and is expected to remain inactive for at least another month. Rodriguez is participating in baseball activities and Jeter just began to throw a ball again. There is no real prognosis yet for when those two will return.

Pineda, it should be noted, hasn't pitched in a regular-season game for the Yankees since he was obtained in a trade from the Mariners on Jan. 23, 2012. He's recovering from right shoulder surgery, is throwing well in Florida and may be as little as three weeks away, Levine indicated.

All this is positive news for the Yankees, who have remained afloat despite having to use the DL 14 times already this year to shelve 13 different players. At least having Youkilis, Teixeira and Pettitte back would be a good start.

"It could be a great boost for us," manager Joe Girardi said after the game. "I don't want to put too much pressure on the guys coming back, but it depends on what kind of starts they get off to."

With the real season about to begin, the Yankees hierarchy is hoping right now for any boost at all.

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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