Brett Gardner’s left ankle felt dramatically better than it did Sunday, but not good enough for the leftfielder to return to the lineup Monday night against the Blue Jays.

Instead, Gardner sat a third straight game, replaced in left by a suddenly resurgent Aaron Hicks.

“He said he was better today, significantly better than yesterday [Sunday],” Joe Girardi said before the game.

Girardi said he would not rule out utilizing Gardner as a pinch hitter or pinch runner should the need arise late in the game, but he hoped to avoid using him.

“His hope is that he’s in there tomorrow,” Girardi said.

Hicks entered Monday with nine hits in his last 26 at-bats.

Didi climbing

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Didi Gregorius, who with Carlos Beltran gone has been the club’s most consistent offensive performer this season, batted third for the second straight game (he had not batted in that spot all season until Saturday).

Gregorius has spent the vast majority of the season batting toward the end of the order, most frequently seventh (35 starts) or sixth (28 starts).

“He’s earned the right to come up in the lineup and you have to see how he reacts,” Girardi said. “Didi’s a young player, too, and we’ve tried to give him more and more as we thought he was ready to take it on, and that’s kind of what we’re doing here.”

Teixeira returns

Mark Teixeira was back at first base, and hitting cleanup, after sitting the previous two games to allow his balky right knee a break. “Tex has been swinging the bat better and his knee feels better,” Girardi said. “I think the couple days off helped him, and that’s something I know we’re going to have to deal with the next 50 or so games, managing that knee.”

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Rookie Tyler Austin started both games in Teixeira’s place, going 3-for-8. “Tyler’s going to play too,” Girardi said. “Both of them are going to play.”