Brett Gardner diagnosed with Grade 1 rib-cage strainYankees outfielder could miss rest of season due to injury
"He's going to be out a while," Girardi said. "It's a big loss, and guys are going to have to step up."
Gardner was removed from Thursday night's game after batting in the first inning, and he appeared to tweak his side on a check swing during that at-bat; the speedster tried stretching in the tunnel to see if it would loosen up, but he was inevitably taken out and replaced by Curtis Granderson.
"It doesn't hurt just standing here, but it definitely was something I could tell would bother me if I stayed in the game, so I came out," Gardner told Chad Jennings of the Journal News after Thursday's game.
Gardner was then sent back to New York for an MRI on Friday morning which revealed the strain, and he should rejoin the team in Boston on Sunday.
Despite the "out a while" prognosis, Girardi acknowledged that Gardner could return before the end of the season as an exclusive pinch-runner - perhaps in a role similar to the one he occupied last September after returning from an elbow injury - and he expects his center fielder to be fully available if the Yankees make the postseason.
Gardner's loss is indeed a big one for the Yankees; he has had a great season defensively and a career year at the plate, hitting .273 with 24 stolen bases and already setting new career highs in home runs (eight), RBI (52), hits (147), doubles (33), and triples (10), with that last total currently leading the American League.
He has also played 145 games this year - second only to Robinson Cano's 146 through Thursday - and acknowledged Thursday night that he was frustrated that he may miss the final 15.
"I know we don't have much time left, and we're trying to fight and get into the playoffs, so I haven't really looked too far ahead into that," Gardner said. "I know how important all the games are. I've been happy all year with the way that I've felt, and to be able to go out there every night and compete, and tonight obviously this thing popped up. It's frustrating."
Curtis Granderson will likely reclaim his 2012 role as the everyday center fielder in Gardner's absence, and Granderson also got the first crack at replacing Gardner as the leadoff hitter when Friday's lineup was posted.