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Outfield depth secondary to Yankees

Outfield depth secondary to Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees need to hope that Melky Cabrera's legs continue to feel fresh as they open a nine-game road trip. The center fielder can expect to keep seeing plenty of duty as his team attempts to realign its defensive rotation.

One day after placing speedster Brett Gardner on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured left thumb, the Yankees headed into Monday's series opener against the Rays without making a roster move to replace the injured outfielder.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that the feeling is that the club needs to carry a 13-man pitching staff -- right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo was recalled on Sunday from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- because of a tired bullpen.

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"Right now, we need the pitching," Girardi said. "But it'd be nice to have another outfielder that could help out there."

Even though Phil Hughes is considered unavailable after throwing 39 pitches in the Yanks' 7-5 win over the A's on Sunday, there will almost certainly be a move for an outfielder made soon. The Yankees are coming off of a 9-1 homestand at Yankee Stadium and begin their road swing to play the Rays, White Sox and Blue Jays.

Though Cabrera was productive on the homestand, batting .308 (8-for-26), with three runs scored, two doubles and one RBI, one major concern is that five of the nine road contests will be played on the artificial turf at Tropicana Field and Rogers Centre.

That is less of a threat to Cabrera than to Johnny Damon, whom Girardi acknowledged that the Yankees will need to find a way to rest. Should Cabrera need to be spelled in an emergency, Girardi said he would look to either Damon or Nick Swisher to take over in center field. It is a scenario they want to avoid.

"If you put Johnny in center, then you move a couple of guys out of their positions," Girardi said. "If you put Swish, [Eric] Hinske is comfortable playing right field. We could go either way."

Damon played 34 games in center field last season, but he has not appeared there this season. Plus, the Yankees were not impressed with Swisher's 70 games of center-field duty for the White Sox in 2008 and have shied away from trying him there -- even refusing to play him in center at all during Spring Training.

"It's something that hopefully we don't need," Girardi said.

While the Yankees have talked about working infielder Ramiro Pena in for more outfield duty this week at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Girardi said there has been no discussion about promoting top prospect Austin Jackson.

All four of the Yankees' Triple-A outfielders -- Colin Curtis, Shelley Duncan, Jackson and John Rodriguez -- played in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's 4-0 victory over the Mud Hens in Toledo, Ohio, on Monday.

Jackson went 2-for-5 in that game and is batting .313, with four home runs and 39 RBIs in 93 games.

"It's not something that we've talked about at this moment," Girardi said. "He's playing well at Triple-A. He's hitting well and he's played all over defensively. We do have some concerns about center field. He's young, and it's not an everyday situation for him. Development is important."

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

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