Brett Gardner eyes return as pinch-hitter for Yankees

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Brett Gardner could return to the Yankees this season after undergoing elbow surgery in July. (J. Meric/Getty Images)

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox

The New York Yankees' Brett Gardner could make an earlier-than-expected return, albeit as a pinch-hitter, after undergoing elbow surgery in July, according to Mike Mazzeo of

Girardi said the team still needs to see how Gardner responds, in his spikes, to situational drills on the field. "This is a guy that we don't expect to be able to hit for us," Girardi said, "but is it possible that he could do some other things? Yes."

Girardi also said that he some reservations about Gardner's defense and his ability to dive for balls, but the left fielder said he'll be able to do it all in the outfield. Gardner has been on the disabled list since April when he injured himself after diving for a ball in a game against Minnesota.

He participated in bunting drills and ran the bases on Sept. 15 and will run the bases again on Sunday before Yankees management decide how to proceed.

Gardner said that Saturday was the first day he was able to run on the dirt and practice stealing bases and that he hopes to play in a game in the next week. He was tied in the American League last season for most stolen bases, and the Yankees currently rank 26th in the category for the league:

"I think I'm a couple days away from possibly being able to be in a game. That's obviously gonna be up to them. I'm not swinging a bat right now. I'm hopeful to do that maybe next week; we'll see how that goes."