Yankees manager Joe Girardi could be wearing a white lab coat for the way he has to continually conduct lineup experiments to compensate for injuries and aging players.

Tuesday night's trial-and-error procedure was playing Kelly Johnson, signed as a free agent during the offseason as an infielder, in rightfield. And sending Brian McCann, signed as a free agent during the offseason to catch, to first base.

But, no, Girardi said, he was not holding his breath in anticipation of some chemical explosion.

"Kelly has played the outfield before," Girardi said, "and I have Mac at first just to kind of give each guy a day. You know, we're in a long stretch here" -- 27 consecutive dates between the All-Star break and the next day off -- "and right now, we only have three outfielders."

Plus, everyday first baseman Mark Teixeira, who already has missed 22 games with various physical maladies, is out for at least three more days with a back strain.

The usual rightfielder, Ichiro Suzuki, is 40. With Carlos Beltran still limited to DH because of a bone spur in his elbow, that leaves only Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury as outfielders. "I can't run those guys out there every day," Girardi said. Beltran still working

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The update on Beltran was that he began playing catch on Monday and, after a second day of light throwing, would give his arm a rest Wednesday. "We're trying to get him out there," Girardi said.

Phelps under the radar

Girardi acknowledged that, with four-fifths of his original starting rotation unavailable, David Phelps (4-4, 3.87), scheduled to make his 15th start tonight, has "kind of gone unnoticed" for the "really good job he's done. He's been really consistent."

Phelps is 3-0, 3.09 in his last seven starts.