Yanks hope Garcia can pitch next weekend

Russell Martin of the New York Yankees and Russell Martin of the New York Yankees and Freddy Garcia talks in between pitches in the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston. (Aug. 7, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty

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"Want to get a picture?" Freddy Garcia asked, holding out the index finger of his pitching hand.

There is a small, barely noticeable cut on the inside of his nail, the most recent cause of the incomplete circle that is the Yankees' starting rotation. Even before Sunday's rainout against the Tampa Bay Rays, Garcia had been scratched from the lineup.

Maybe he will return for the Yankees' four-game series in Minnesota, which begins Thursday. The injury, manager Joe Girardi said, is not serious enough to assign him to the disabled list, but "we've got to make sure it's healed before we even try to have him pitch in a game."

The injury affects Garcia's ability to throw his split-fingered pitch, one of five in his throwing quiver. "I cut myself, man," he said, though he wouldn't specify the circumstances. "I was home. I cut it, that's all."

It happened six days ago and Girardi said he believes it resulted from "a kitchen accident."

Garcia's temporary absence could be the open door for Phil Hughes, who pitched well through six innings in Saturday's 9-2 victory over Tampa Bay, to shoulder his way back into the rotation. Or maybe not.

Girardi said Sunday's postponement pushed A.J. Burnett to start Monday night in Kansas City, followed by Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon and CC Sabathia. That takes everybody to Friday in Minnesota, and "I think it's realistic that Freddy could make a start in Minnesota," Girardi said.

Of the six men trying to take turns in a rotation that normally accommodates only five, Garcia has the second-best earned run average at 3.16 (Sabathia is first at 2.93). Garcia is third in victories (10-7, behind Sabathia's 16-7 and Nova's 11-4).

But everything, after staff ace Sabathia, often appears a moving target. Burnett (8-9, 4.60) has gone seven consecutive starts without a victory -- three losses, four no-decisions. Hughes (3-4, 6.55) still is trying to re-establish his 2010 All-Star bona fides after early-season failures and shoulder trouble.

Colon (8-6, 3.31) and Garcia, both signed to minor-league contracts in spring training, have been pleasant surprises but remain in a let's-see-that-again state. Nova (11-4, 3.85) dangles on the precipice of another minor-league demotion only because he is a rookie squeezed in the numbers game.

"I'm just waiting for it to heal and go from there," Garcia said. "Hopefully, Minnesota. See what happens."

The big picture, then, remains out of focus.

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