NEW YORK -- As it turned out, Yankees manager Joe Girardi picked the perfect time to give Travis Hafner his first start against a left-handed pitcher on Saturday.
Hafner, who typically gives way to Ben Francisco against southpaw starters, belted a three-run homer against Jays starter J.A. Happ on Saturday and later delivered a decisive RBI triple in the seventh inning against fellow lefty Brett Cecil.
"I thought it was time to give Haf a shot at it [Saturday]," Girardi said. "I won't do it every time because I think, for him, who's had some injury problems, off-days don't necessarily hurt him. I have to be careful, but I thought it was a good day to do it and he made it work."
For Hafner, it was important to get that first start under his belt, considering he's bound to face his fair share of lefty specialists late in games. Though he had yet to start against a left-hander, Hafner was 1-for-7 with three strikeouts and three walks prior to Saturday's 2-for-4 performance.
"It's nice to get some starts in there, because you face them late in games and it's nice to have some at-bats off them," Hafner said. "I think I will get some starts, but I know they have my best interest in mind, too. Whenever they want me to play, I'm ready."
As far as whether or not Girardi will start using Hafner more against lefties, the skipper said the decision will be based more on Hafner's durability than his statistical numbers. After all, the 35-year-old designated hitter has played more than 100 games just once in the last five seasons due to a myriad of injuries.
"We'll see. Part of it is managing him, too," Girardi said. "When you have some guys that have some age and some history of health problems, you have to manage that. You pick your days and [Saturday] I picked to put him in against a left-hander and he was great."
After sitting out finale, Youk to get MRI on back
NEW YORK -- Kevin Youkilis' back did not respond the way he had hoped in his first start in a week on Saturday, once again relegating him to the bench for Sunday's series finale against the Blue Jays, which the Yankees won, 3-2. He will undergo an MRI on Monday to further examine the cause of his back tightness.
Youkilis, who had missed six straight games prior to Saturday's start, was again dealing with the tightness on Sunday morning that initially showed up on April 20 during the Yankees' game in Toronto.
"Yesterday, he felt OK. Today, I'm not so sure. I think he's a little stiff, so I'm probably going to put [Jayson] Nix back at third base," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Sunday before finalizing his lineup card. "He's important, so we've got to get this right and we can't push it too fast. If there are days that he's a little stiff, he might have to back off a little bit and try again the next day."
When the lineup card was finally posted, Nix was indeed at third base and Lyle Overbay was penciled in at the other corner-infield position.
On Friday, Girardi had mentioned a stint on the disabled list was a legitimate possibility if the veteran wasn't able to play in the next day or two. Instead, Youkilis went through batting practice Saturday without any issues, then went 0-for-3 while also drawing a walk and coming around to score a run in New York's 5-4 victory over Toronto.
Now, Youkilis will undergo Monday's MRI in the hopes of having a more definitive reason for the recent stiffness.
"It's a little concerning for me, because I've said all along that backs can be tricky," Girardi said. "I'm a guy that's had to deal with it for a number of years and sometimes you have no idea why it acts up. Sometimes it can be one play or something that you do, sometimes it can be as simple as bending over to pick up a ball or something and all the sudden you lock up. So yeah, it's concerning."
Romine re-acclimating himself to Yanks' staff
NEW YORK -- Austin Romine hasn't made his first start yet, but the catcher has had one of the busiest weekends of anyone in the Yankees' clubhouse.
It all started Friday night in the third inning of Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's home game against Columbus. With two runners on base, one out and one run already across in the inning, a timeout was called by the Scranton bench for what Romine figured was a routine mound visit.
Instead, a confused Romine was waved to the dugout and pulled from the game.
"I was like, 'I'm not coming out, I didn't do anything wrong,'" Romine said. "Then [manager Dave] Miley told me, 'Pack your stuff, you're going up.' That's really all I heard until I was done packing and heard exactly what happened."
It was at that point that Romine learned of starting catcher Francisco Cervelli's fractured right hand and the opportunity awaiting him in the big leagues. He arrived in the Yankees' clubhouse Saturday morning and promptly went out to catch two bullpen sessions -- one each from Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda.
Fellow catcher Chris Stewart started both Saturday and Sunday, but manager Joe Girardi said Romine will get his reps behind the dish in Cervelli's absence. Though Cervelli caught each Yankees starter to some extent in Spring Training, it was on a very limited basis.
"In Spring Training, you've got to take that seriously because of situations like this," Romine said. "You want to know what pitcher throws what, where they miss, what they do well and how they like to pitch, so if I get in the game and I've got a guy coming out of the 'pen in the sixth or the seventh, I know exactly what's going on."