Injury-wise, Yankees' dark skies are beginning to clear

Curtis Granderson smiles during an autograph sessions for

Curtis Granderson smiles during an autograph sessions for his fans at a shopping mall in South Korea. (Dec. 2, 2012) (Credit: AP)

CLEVELAND

Mark Teixeira pointed to the area beneath his right wrist and dragged a finger along his forearm. He was trying to explain the difference between his torn tendon sheath and the one that haunted Toronto's Jose Bautista last year.

From what Teixeira has been told, the injury itself is similar to Bautista's, but with a notable exception. Because of the smaller tear, Teixeira's tendon stayed put inside the sheath, which presumably has now scarred over. Bautista eventually needed surgery because the wobbly tendon caused a much bigger problem.

"His was torn a lot more and the tendon was moving around,'' Teixeira said before the Yankees were rained out again Thursday night. "Mine is stable.''

Could it be that the Yankees' luck is changing? Teixeira, a generally upbeat guy, was beaming with the announcement that he hopes to take a few dry swings Friday and advance to batting practice on the field a week later.

Earlier Thursday, Curtis Granderson posted a Facebook photo of him getting the brace off his fractured right forearm, clearing another hurdle. Even Derek Jeter, taking a breather from his own light workouts, apparently reported no issues from faraway Tampa. "I think he's OK,'' Joe Girardi said. "I didn't get any alarming news.''

Imagine that. After enduring a series of body blows from late October through early March, the Yankees may be through the worst of it. At least they're showing signs of surviving a stretch that had the potential to cripple their season.

They're not in the clear yet, obviously. But aside from Jeter, whose rehab slowdown has to be characterized as a setback regardless of the company line, the Yankees have been fortunate with the progress of Teixeira and Granderson since the duo first landed on the disabled list.

The fact that they're 4-4 and have maximized the returns from Brian Cashman's fill-in crew is the best the Yankees could have hoped for when the sky was falling a month ago.

When Teixeira is ready to return -- he's still weeks away -- all that will involve is a one-for-one swap with Lyle Overbay. Sticking Granderson into the everyday lineup, however, is expected to be more complicated.

Cashman insists that Granderson will play centerfield when he returns to the team, which in itself is a controversial decision; the Yankees already have acknowledged that Brett Gardner is the better defender at that position. Vernon Wells' quick start (team-best 1.187 OPS) should keep him in leftfield -- with some DH work against lefthanders -- and that leaves one regular outfield spot for either Gardner or Ichiro Suzuki.

So who gets squeezed? It's a question the Yankees don't have to answer at the moment. There's time for these things to sort themselves out. Wells, who batted .230 with a .249 OBP last year, could cool off, which would set up a platoon situation in left. But if he's still a respectable hitter and supplying power, Girardi will have to juggle the Gardner/Ichiro combo.

Before Wednesday's game was rained out, Girardi had Ichiro on the bench for the second time in the first nine games, replacing him with Brennan Boesch. But Ichiro was back in Thursday night's lineup and Girardi shrugged off the suggestion that his full-time job could be in jeopardy. Sort of. "We anticipate him to be our everyday rightfielder,'' Girardi said.

Based on the Yankees' two-year, $13-million commitment to Ichiro, that's the way the manager has to think at the moment. But Ichiro was signed long before Cashman felt compelled to make the trade for Wells, and it's not as though Girardi, who's working without a safety net in the final season of his contract, has to be overly patient. Ichiro is a 10-time Gold Glove winner and still a solid defensive player. But if Gardner hits and Ichiro stumbles, it's an easy swap.

Again, those are decisions that don't need to be made right this minute. But with the optimism Teixeira expressed Thursday and Granderson apparently on track, the Yankees seem to have better than a puncher's chance of becoming whole somewhere around the time of their initial projections.

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