CLEVELAND - Michael Pineda could be closing in on a rehab assignment, with his return to the rotation coming not far beyond that.

The righthander, on the DL since July 30 with a right flexor forearm strain, threw a 25-pitch bullpen Monday and will increase to 35 pitches Thursday. Pineda threw just fastballs and changeups Monday but will throw all of his pitches Thursday.

"If that all goes well, it's possible we could step it up a little bit and maybe he pitches in a [rehab] game," Joe Girardi said Tuesday. "So far, everything has went according to plan."

Pineda, who played long toss before Tuesday night's game, said he has not felt the strain. "I feel pretty good right now," said Pineda, 9-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 19 starts this season. "Just continue working and following the program."

Does Pineda have a day in mind when he'll be back?

"I don't have control over that," Pineda smiled. "As soon as I'm ready. Joe will make the decision and I'll go to the mound."

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Headley gets a break

Girardi tried to give Chase Headley what amounted to a two-day break by sitting him Tuesday night but Headley pinch hitting in the 10th and getting a two-run single to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead. He stayed in at third base the rest of the game.

"He's just a little banged up," Girardi said before the game. "He's played every day, he played every day in that long road trip [10 games], played every day during that [six-game] homestand."

Headley, coming off a 4-for-21 homestand, one in which he fouled a small handful of balls off his shin, didn't dispute he could use a day.

"Some little wear and tear stuff from the season," he said. "I'll be available and unless something crazy happens, I'll be in there tomorrow." A-Rod in mini-slump

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Alex Rodriguez went 1-for-6 and he's in a 6-for-33 (.182) skid. "At times, his at-bats are good, and I think sometimes he gets out of his legs a little bit," Girardi said. "I'm hoping the day off helped him."