ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- No one is declaring Ichiro out of his early-season slump based on his two-hit night Tuesday, but it backed up Joe Girardi's belief that the 39-year-old outfielder has plenty left.
"I saw what he did for us last year and it's not like from October to April he aged a lot," Girardi said. "I saw what he did last year, I saw what he did in the spring [he hit .286]. I think his at-bats have been better and you just believe he's going to come out of it."
Ichiro entered Tuesday hitting .200 with a .250 OBP but went 2-for-4, including a two-out, two-run single off Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning to snap a 2-2 tie and lead the Yankees to a 4-3 victory.
Ichiro, who is 6-for-21 on the road trip, batted second Wednesday night against Rays righthander Alex Cobb and went 1-for-4.
"Ichiro's been swinging OK so we moved him up," Girardi said.
As for the logjam that will be created when Curtis Granderson (broken right forearm) returns, Girardi wasn't ready to speculate on who among Ichiro, Brett Gardner and Vernon Wells will most be affected in terms of playing time.
"There's a lot that can happen," Girardi said. "Worry about it then. Let's just get him back. It'll be a good problem to have."
No Youk, again
Kevin Youkilis missed a fourth straight game with tightness in his lower back, but Girardi said the third baseman could be back Thursday night when the Yankees start a four-game series against the Blue Jays at the Stadium.
"That's our hope," Girardi said.
Youkilis took swings inside but did not taking batting practice outside with the team.
On the All-Star Game ballots released Wednesday by MLB, Derek Jeter was a choice at shortstop, and Kevin Youkilis -- and not Alex Rodriguez -- was an option at third. A reasonable explanation is that, all along since Jeter's ankle surgery last October, the given timetable for his return was by Opening Day and the timetable for A-Rod always was post-All-Star break.
Cashman denies it
General manager Brian Cashman offered a colorful response in denying the claim by Jose Valverde, recently signed by the Tigers, that he had been offered major-league deals this offseason from several clubs, including the Yankees.
"Somebody lied on that one," Cashman said via text.