CLEVELAND - Rookie Greg Bird replaced Mark Teixeira in the starting lineup Thursday night, but not because the veteran first baseman is ailing.

"I thought I'd give Tex a day off going into this weekend as we embark on this long stretch of games here," said Joe Girardi, whose club started a string of 16 straight on Tuesday. "And Tex was in that 16-inning game [Tuesday] and I just felt I'd give him today."

Teixeira entered Thursday night in a 7-for-41 skid that dropped his slash line to .259/.361/.557. He still led the club with 30 home runs and 70 RBIs but had two homers and four RBIs in his last 10 games.

Alex Rodriguez also has struggled of late -- a .162/.295/.216 slash line in his previous 10 games -- and Bird could be used to give the 40-year-old DH a breather.

"It's that time of year where you check in with guys more physically," Girardi said.

Pineda throws bullpen

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Michael Pineda, on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm since July 30, is ahead of schedule in his rehab. He threw a bullpen session Thursday and is slated to throw about 45 pitches for Double-A Trenton on Sunday.

Girardi did not rule out a return to the big leagues after that. "That's something you could talk about because he hasn't been off that long," he said. "Sometimes need determines things, too."

Said Pineda: "I threw with pretty good intensity today . . . I'm ready to go."

Ellsbury returns

Jacoby Ellsbury returned to the lineup Thursday night after Wednesday's day off. "They did some work," Girardi said of Ellsbury and hitting coach Jeff Pentland. "Obviously, you hope it translates into today and he gets five hits and does a lot of damage. But sometimes it takes a little bit. Sometimes just a day off can help, too."

Ellsbury, who had been hitless in his last 19 at-bats -- part of a 5-for-46 slide -- lined a single to begin Thursday night's game and went 2-for-4 with a walk in an 8-6 win over the Indians.