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Gardner's return 'late-July at earliest'

07/10/2012 4:36 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro
According to Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, Brett Gardner’s return is at least another two-to-three weeks away.

In an interview with ESPNNewYork.com on Tuesday, Cashman said that “the earliest you will see him (Gardner) is the 27th of July at the Major League level.”

Gardner has played just nine games this year, and has been sidelined since suffering a strained muscle and a bone bruise in his right elbow while diving for a ball on April 17. He has tried to return twice before, but had both of his rehab assignments shut down after feeling soreness once again.

"He is swinging off a tee," Cashman said. "He's been fine but as you know, his first two outings that's what he did. He was fine until he got all the way through a major league rehab. There is going to be a lot of, 'He's fine,' up until he is playing in rehab games."

Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez have played the majority of the games in left field this year in Gardner’s absence, with Jones hitting .244 with 11 home runs and 22 RBI this season while Ibanez has posted a .240-11-36 line.

Cashman has previously said that he doesn’t want to “overexpose” Jones and Ibanez in the outfield, but it looks as if the Yankees will have to continue with the status quo until at least the end of the month.

"Do we miss Gardner? Yes," Cashman said. "Have we missed Gardner? No. I can say that about every one of our guys that have gotten hurt. This is exactly what we thought we would get (from Ibanez and Jones.)"

The two veterans have also been spelled by a group that includes Jayson Nix, DeWayne Wise, Eduardo Nunez, and now Darnell McDonald, and even with Gardner still out, Cashman has maintained he is not actively seeking to trade for a replacement left fielder.

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