08/16/08 1:35 PM ET
Matsui homers in first rehab start
Yanks outfielder gradually building toward return to Bronx
By Samantha Newman / MLB.com
The designated hitter went 1-for-3 at the plate and connected on a solo home run in the sixth inning that proved to be the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over Clearwater. Matsui also played in the DH spot for the second game of a doubleheader, going 0-for-2 with a walk. He is scheduled to play for Tampa again Saturday night.
He was placed on the disabled list June 27, retroactive to June 23, with left knee inflammation, and the Yankees have missed his consistent offensive presence. Before the injury, Matsui was batting .323 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs through 69 games with the Bombers.
Manager Joe Girardi received regular updates through text messages during each of Matsui's six at-bats Friday night. He said he was encouraged by the results, but he wouldn't specify any sort of timetable for Matsui's return until he knew the slugger's condition Saturday.
"So much of it depends on how he feels today," Girardi said Saturday morning. "We would love to have him back as soon as possible. But until I get a report today on how he feels, you don't get too excited one way or the other."
After Friday's game, Matsui said there were no problems, and he felt fine. He ran effectively between first and third base, and given the work he's done as part of the rehab process, he said he was not surprised by his hitting performance.
"Gradually, we're increasing the work load," Matsui told The Associated Press through a translator. "So my body, my eyes are used to seeing pitching. Given the results that I had today, I'm pretty satisfied."
If Matsui returns to the Yankees lineup during the 2008 season, Girardi will have to make some decisions in the outfield, as Johnny Damon is playing primarily in the DH spot with rookie Brett Gardner in center field and recent acquisition Xavier Nady taking over in left.
"[Matsui] will be our DH, and we'll probably put Johnny somewhere in the outfield," Girardi said. "You rotate your DH a little bit. We'll worry about that when we get there. We've still got to get him here."
Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.