Though Yankee third basemen have performed well since Alex Rodriguez went on the DL with a fractured left hand July 24 in Seattle, the team is eagerly awaiting his return.

That could happen as early as Monday, according to manager Joe Girardi, when the Yankees visit the Rays for a three-game series.

“He came out all right,” Girardi said before Saturday’s game. “He had the four ABs. He walked once. He saw a bunch of pitches. He came out good. I haven’t talked to him this morning to see how he felt but the reports are good.”

Rodriguez went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored Friday for Single-A Tampa at Lakeland. He is slated to play third base on Saturday night.


“We will let him play this weekend then we will evaluate it,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “Sunday is an 11 a.m. game. [He is] expected to DH after [a] night game, then they will decide.”

Granderson injures hamstring, Yankees exhale

Not having Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira is bad enough but losing Curtis Granderson for an extended period of time might have made things even worse.

The good news is that Granderson does not expect to miss significant time after suffering tightness in his right hamstring that an MRI diagnosed as tendinitis.

“Everything is good,” Girardi said. “He’s just got a little tendinitis. He might even be a player for me tomorrow, so there was no tear, none of that. He had a hard time getting loose. We just thought that if he had to make a burst, it could have turned into something not good.”

“It’s good,” Granderson said. “The good thing is I didn’t feel it pop or snap. Something didn’t feel right.”

According to Granderson, he began feeling something while doing his normal warm-up throws with Ichiro in the outfield. When he felt something again in the second inning, that’s when he alerted Girardi and the training staff.

Granderson came out after striking out on a check swing with a full count. Had he drawn a walk in that spot, he might have injured it more severely running the bases.

“The concern was that if I did have to go -- whether it was for a ball, first to third or score from first or out of the box or something like that,” Granderson said. “That would have been an issue, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Cervelli overcomes disappointment

When Francisco Cervelli was optioned to Triple-A toward the end of spring training to make room for Chris Stewart, who did not have any remaining options, his disappointment was apparent.

On Saturday, Cervelli was among the seven players promoted from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

Cervelli batted .246 with 39 RBI in 99 games with the Yankees’ International League affiliate, but struggled to overcome the initial shock of having to return to the minors after spending the previous two seasons as the primary backup catcher in New York.

“I think the whole month of April. Everything was different,” Cervelli said. “The weather was really bad and it was really cold. In May when my family came, they helped me walk the line again and realize how lucky I am to have a job and still do what I like to do, which is play baseball. No matter where it is, I have to enjoy it.”

Even though Girardi was part of the decision-making process, he could empathize having been sent down in the early-1990s with the Cubs.

“I’m sure it was extremely difficult,” Girardi said. “I went through it when I was up and then I got sent down for a while. The first two weeks were tough on me too. One of the messages that I give to players when they get sent down and it’s a tough send down is don’t make the mistake that I made.

“Get your heard clear as soon as you can so that you can go out and play and get yourself back here. But it’s hard. It’s definitely a hard thing to go through. Being sent down from big league camp when you’ve never been in the big leagues is different from when you’ve been in the big leagues because you don’t really know what the big leagues is like. Obviously when you get here, you don’t ever want to go back down.”

Nunez also returns

When Eduardo Nunez began the season with the Yankees, he played five games apiece at shortstop and third base, three in left field and one at second base. On May 11, he was optioned back to the minors and appeared in 38 games.

Nunez’s play was limited because he missed over two months with a thumb injury, but he said that his defense has been getting better while playing only shortstop.

“He’s been playing well down there,” Girardi said of Nunez. “I like the speed element that he brings to our club. Swinging the bat was not the issue when he went down. We just thought we wanted to play him at one position and he played very well at shortstop.”

In 35 games at shortstop for Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Nunez had 152 chances and made just five errors.

“I feel like I had to learn a little bit more,” Nunez said. “I think I’m better for the future.”

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.