05/25/08 2:13 PM ET
Posada set to start rehab stint in Florida
Veteran catcher hoping to return to Yankees by June 3
By Kit Stier / Special to MLB.com
The disabled Yankees catcher was scheduled to leave for Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, and he's expected to play in an extended spring game on Monday. The game plan is for Posada to play in at least five games in Florida, and then return to New York in time to be activated off the disabled list when the team begins a homestand against Toronto on June 3.
Posada is on the DL for the first time in his career, and he hasn't played since April 26, when he was shut down with right rotator cuff tendinitis.
"We would hope to have him back within two weeks," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Sunday before the team wrapped up a homestand against the slumping Mariners. "If everything continues to progress, we feel that we'll have him back within two weeks. But that's saying there are no extra days off, because he needs it. But right now, every step of the process has gone the way we wanted it to go."
There was some talk that Posada might require shoulder surgery, but the veteran catcher and the team opted to take a conservative rehabilitation path.
"I'm looking forward to getting ready to start playing up here," said Posada, who was batting .308 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 18 games when he was shut down. "It's just a matter of getting ready, getting comfortable and getting behind the plate."
The plan is for Posada to play in games on Monday and Wednesday, during which he'll be instructed not to throw. Extended spring games can be controlled, so he won't have to make throws in his first two contests. Then on Friday, it is hoped that he'll play in a game where the red light won't be on opposing runners.
"I think I'm going to play Friday and Monday again, so I can throw then," Posada said. "I'm looking forward to it. I feel good. I'm throwing good."
As with any injury, of course, nothing is set in stone. It'll be a day-by-day process with the veteran, who made 90 throws and stretched out from 120 feet on Sunday.
Posada, who was spotted signing autographs for veterans near the owner's box on the press level at Yankee Stadium during Saturday's game, has tried to keep busy during the first layoff of his working career. He was clearly edgy while talking with reporters on Sunday, and there was no doubt that he was itching to get into a game at last.
"It's tough not to play," Posada admitted. "But it is what it is. You try to keep busy during the game, and you try to help out. But there is only so much you can do."
Posada said that he foresees no roadblocks in the way of his return in early June, and he expects to be eased back into his starting role.
"When I'm doing the drills, I don't feel any discomfort or anything wrong," Posada said. "I think it's going to come naturally. I think Joe is going to be a little bit careful with me at the beginning. Once I start playing, if I'm not hurting or anything, obviously, I'm going to keep going."
While Posada is in Florida, the Yankees will be trying to figure ways for right-hander Joba Chamberlain to reach a pitch count that will enable him to join the starting rotation. Girardi indicated that the pitcher would have to reach the 80-85 pitch range in a game before being able to start. Chamberlain threw 40 pitches over two innings in a relief stint on Saturday.
Girardi said Chamberlain should up his pitch count to about 55 the next time he pitches, which is expected to be on Tuesday or Wednesday. The manager said the team is trying to find creative ways to use Chamberlain.
"When you get to 75-80 pitches, we are going to have to get creative, because it becomes tough to do that out of the bullpen," Girardi said, adding that Chamberlain might have to build up some of his pitch counts in the bullpen. "The plan is not set in stone, but we'd like to keep him here to help us. It's an awful good arm to have with us."
Kit Stier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.