Girardi: Matsui should return Tuesday

August 17, 2008 1:39:23 PM PDT
Injured slugger Hideki Matsui is back with the Yankees and is likely to be activated Tuesday, when the club begins a six-game trip at Toronto. Matsui had 15 at-bats during a simulated game at the Yankees' spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. on Sunday, facing left- and right-handed pitching. Manager Joe Girardi said the balky left knee that has derailed the rehab process several times seems to be holding up.

"Every time he would get to bat, it would just blow up, but it hasn't this time," Girardi said. "So far the knee is good and we'll make a decision tomorrow," when the team has a day off.

Out since June 27, Matsui homered Friday night for his only hit in a doubleheader for Class A Tampa. He went 1-for-3, including a line drive single to right, and a walk in his third rehab game for Tampa on Saturday night.

"I'm very happy, definitely happy, and the only thing left is do whatever I can to help the team," Matsui said through a translator after his simulated game on Sunday. "I'll just have to try and see what happens, but I'm sure I'll be able to help the team."

Matsui is batting .323 with seven homers and 34 RBIs in 69 games this season. He decided not to have surgery last month in an attempt to rejoin the team this season.

"I had some doubts as far as the surgery, but as far as making the decision to try and make it back, I had no doubts," Matsui said. "I believe in myself, and I had no doubts."

Girardi also said he's keeping an eye on right-hander Phil Hughes, who is slated to start Sunday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and right-hander Carl Pavano, who will pitch for Double-A Trenton.

One of them will likely pitch at Baltimore this week, when the Yankees need a fifth starter.

The Yankees began the day 9½ games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, and six games back of the Boston Red Sox for the wild card.