Carlos Beltran was scratched from last night's Yankees lineup with a recurrence of the right elbow discomfort that has pretty much sabotaged his first season in pinstripes.

Beltran, who had a third cortisone shot Wednesday night in hopes of returning to the lineup as soon as Friday, is expected to have surgery after the season to remove a painful bone spur in his throwing elbow.

If he can make it to the end of the season.

"It was a couple of swings [Tuesday]," Beltran said after the Yankees' 5-2 loss to the Astros. "One was a pitch away. I reached for it and I felt pain."

Beltran had been penciled in as the designated hitter. Joe Girardi moved Derek Jeter from shortstop to DH, Stephen Drew from second to short, Martin Prado from rightfield to second and inserted Ichiro Suzuki in rightfield. Suzuki had two hits, including a double, and scored a run in place of Beltran.

The changes tightened up the Yankees' defense, but the team would prefer to have Beltran's bat in the lineup -- even though the 37-year-old is having a down year.

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Beltran is batting .233 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs in 90 games. He was on the disabled list from May 13-June 4 with what the Yankees called elbow inflammation. He also missed seven days last month with concussion symptoms.

Beltran has played only two games in the field since May 11 -- both last weekend. He said he didn't think playing the outfield affected the elbow.

The Yankees are hoping the surgery can wait until then.

Left turn

The Yankees will face lefthanded starters in three of their next four games, including White Sox ace Chris Sale on Sunday. They are 16-18 vs. lefthanded starters.