Five key questions for Yankees

Brett Gardner reacts after lining out to end

Brett Gardner reacts after lining out to end the game against the Minnesota Twins. (April 16, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

When will Brett Gardner be back?

GM Brian Cashman has said for the better part of a month that the earliest Gardner will be back is late July. But as Cashman said Wednesday, getting the outfielder, on the DL with a right elbow strain, through rehab hasn't been the problem. Getting him through rehab games, which produced both of his setbacks, has.

Will Andy Pettitte return to form?

The lefthander was forced out of his June 27 start against the Indians when a comebacker fractured his lower left fibula, an injury that will keep him out two months. Still, the ease with which Pettitte, 40, regained his form after more than a year off (3-3, 3.22 ERA) suggests he'll be ready for September's stretch run.

How realistic is it to expect Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley to keep getting key late-inning outs?

Both were scrap-heap pickups and both have surpassed expectations. Rapada, formerly of the Orioles, has emerged as a lefty specialist and Eppley, released by the Rangers, has mostly done the same from the right side. There's no reason to expect that won't continue, and help appears on the way. That's because . . .

Joba Chamberlain is really going to be back this year?

Yes, Chamberlain -- given zero chance by many to pitch this season after he suffered an open ankle dislocation in a trampoline accident in late March -- is going to pitch this season. Barring the unforeseen, the 26-year-old will be back the first week of August, if not sooner. In his first rehab outing Tuesday, Chamberlain hit 97 mph.

What's the deal?

Cashman always says his preference is to fix from within -- the GM made no deals before last year's trade deadline -- but he can never be counted out when it comes to making an acquisition. Among the pitchers the Yankees have scouted are Matt Garza, Bruce Chen and Francisco Liriano, and they've done some cursory work on outfielders as well. Right now, however, it's a seller's market as prices remain high.

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