New York will play 29 of its final 35 games against AL East clubs, including 10 matchups with Toronto. The Yankees won't face a team outside of their division again until Sept. 21, so if they want to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack, now is the time.
"It's almost all the East after this. It's a good thing," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You can separate yourselves by the way you play, and your destiny is in front of you, where we're going to be at the end of the year."
That starts Monday at Yankee Stadium, where David Phelps will take the mound. Taking Ivan Nova's spot in the rotation, Phelps will be making his sixth Major League start and his first since Aug. 18 against Boston. He took a loss in that outing, despite allowing only three runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Phelps has made 24 total appearances for the Yankees, putting together a 2.69 ERA with 66 strikeouts and 20 walks in 63 2/3 innings, and Girardi likes the way the rookie has gone about his business so far this year.
"Really, really good, just because of all the roles that he's been able to perform in for us," Girardi said. "I kind of liken it to a little bit of Ramiro Mendoza when I was here. He was able to do everything. Start, long relief, short relief. He's been really good."
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, will send Henderson Alvarez to the mound after Sunday's rainout in Baltimore. He hasn't won since July 28 and surrendered a career-high eight runs and 12 hits in 4 1/3 innings in his last outing.
Adding even further to the Blue Jays' concerns heading into this series: They're without slugger Jose Bautista, recently placed on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his left wrist. Girardi pointed out that Toronto's lineup is still dangerous without Bautista, so the Yankees can't afford to overlook the Jays just because Bautista won't be in his usual spot.
"Obviously, he's a huge bat, but we also saw them put up nine runs against us without Bautista. If you don't make your pitches, it doesn't matter who's in the lineup," Girardi said. "I'm sure he's frustrated with that. He's a dangerous guy. There's no doubt about that."
Blue Jays: Lind rejoins big-league club
• Because David Cooper went on the 15-day disabled list with back spasms, Adam Lind was back with the Blue Jays on Sunday, joining the team earlier than expected, despite a lingering back injury. Lind, batting .227 in 58 games this year, should get most of his playing time at designated hitter, but he also figures to see a few starts at first base.
"It's great to be back here," he said. "We have a lot of good guys in the system, but it's nice to be back with the people you really know, the guys you've been with for years. ... It's nice to have purpose and be back here in the big leagues trying to win as many games as we can and keep as many teams out of the playoffs as we can right now."
• J.P. Arencibia began rehabbing Saturday at the Blue Jays' Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla., and manager John Farrell said the catcher could return from a fractured right hand by mid-September.
Yankees: Girardi says A-Rod, Pettitte making progress
• Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte will be examined in New York on Monday, and Girardi is expecting good news about both. Rodriguez will have his left hand checked out, and Girardi hopes the third baseman can start taking regular batting practice soon. Pettitte, meanwhile, will have his left leg examined, and the next step for him would be pitching off a mound.
"Basically, [we hope] they would be turned loose to do what they need to do," Girardi said.
• Robinson Cano went 2-for-3 with a double on Sunday, finishing an 8-for-21 road trip that's seen him get back on track. Girardi said Cano's scuffles were mostly caused by bad luck, as Cano simply hit the ball in the wrong places.
• In addition to their 10 games remaining against the Blue Jays, the Yankees have seven left against the Orioles and six apiece with the Rays and Red Sox. New York is 24-19 against the AL East this season.
• Toronto's game against the Orioles on Sunday was postponed due to rain. The clubs will make up that rainout with a single-admission doubleheader on Sept. 24, beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET.