Yankees' outfielder Brett Gardner at spring training in Tampa, Fla....

Yankees' outfielder Brett Gardner at spring training in Tampa, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2012) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

The news not only isn't getting any better for Brett Gardner, it's getting worse.

The outfielder, on the disabled list since April 18 with a right elbow strain and bone bruise, suffered the third setback of his rehab after participating in a three-inning simulated game Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

His agent, Joe Bick, said early last night that the outfielder likely will have an MRI Tuesday.

"When I talked to him [Sunday] night, he said he felt something but wanted to wait until morning to see how it felt, and it felt worse," Bick said by phone. "He said he didn't feel there was any possible way he would have been able to play today."

In addition to seeing team physician Christopher Ahmad, Gardner has been evaluated in the last month by top orthopedic surgeons James Andrews and Timothy Kremchek.

Bick said surgery "hasn't been discussed at this point."

Gardner received PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy and a cortisone shot from Kremchek in Cincinnati on June 14, and all three doctors recommended that the leftfielder rest the elbow for three to four weeks.

Gardner's two previous setbacks occurred in rehab games on May 10 and June 8.

"Why it won't go away is a mystery to better medical minds than mine," Bick said. "Three of the most respected doctors in the country agreed on the diagnosis and the treatment, and it still hasn't gone away. Certainly, [Gardner's] level of frustration is extremely high."

The Yankees already had been scouting outfielders in advance of the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline -- the Phillies' Shane Victorino and the Athletics' Coco Crisp are among those they've given a cursory look in recent weeks -- and that process likely will intensify with the uncertainty surrounding Gardner.

Joe Girardi called Gardner's situation "puzzling."

"We expected that he would get through this and our hope is still that he'll get through this, but today he was a little sore," Girardi said. "Can't tell you what's going to happen. I can't tell you what's next . . . It's a concern because it happened before. Hopefully, he can get through this and continue to play. We'll have to wait and see."

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