NEW YORK -- The last Yankee to lead the league in April hitting was Paul O'Neill in 1994. Suffice it to say O'Neill does not share much in common with Robinson Cano.

"They both wanted to be great, and you could probably leave it at that," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, laughing. "They both worked very hard at their trade. Paul didn't smile quite as much as Robbie does."

Cano, of course, has reason to smile. With three hits -- including two home runs -- on Thursday, Cano upped his average to .407 -- 48 points higher than the American League's second-best hitter, Scott Podsednik, and 34 points higher than the National League's top hitter, Pablo Sandoval. Barring something unfathomable, Cano will become the first Yankee since O'Neill to finish the first month of the season atop the leaderboard. O'Neill won the AL batting title with a .359 average in 1994.

Posada's knee 'good,' but Yanks cautious

NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada spent his Friday morning at home, testing his injured right knee by squatting in street clothes at his house.

If Posada plays in Friday evening's game against the White Sox, however, he will do so not in a squat but a batter's stance. Though Posada called his swollen right knee "good" and said he could have started the game at catcher, the Yankees decided to withhold him from the starting lineup for a second straight day.

"The swelling's got to go down, but it will be all right," Posada said. "I could have played today, but they decided to give me another day."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Posada was available to pinch-hit if needed.

"He is going in the right direction," Girardi said. "He does still have some swelling. I think we're looking at [Saturday] or the next day, possibly. I'm going to see how he does."

After plunking Posada on the right knee with a pitch in Wednesday's game -- but before Girardi made some critical comments regarding his control -- Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie apologized for the incident.

Posada said he did not believe the gesture was necessary.

"I read the paper," Posada said. "I didn't see anything wrong with what he did. I didn't think he needed to say what he said, but it's good that he said that."

Jeter's quick pace has him in Griffey's company

NEW YORK -- When Derek Jeter recorded his first career hit on May 29, 1995, Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. already had 998 hits of his own.

Jeter has officially caught up.

With a single in the first inning Friday, Jeter moved past Griffey with 2,776 hits, tops among active players. While Griffey, 40, recorded 1,021 hits last decade, Jeter, 35, rapidly gained on him with 1,940 hits.

Griffey, a classic left-handed power hitter in his prime, has never recorded more than 185 hits in a season. Battling a multitude of injuries over the past decade and reduced to a part-time role in Seattle, Griffey had just 83 hits last season.

Jeter, meanwhile, has lost nothing with age, rapping out 212 hits last season and passing Lou Gehrig for first all-time on the franchise list. Jeter is primed to become the first Yankee in history to reach 3,000 hits early next season; Griffey may never reach that mark.

Johnson practicing too much patience?

NEW YORK -- Patience may be wearing thin at Nick Johnson's patience at the plate.

Johnson, brought to the Bronx largely because of his remarkable ability to get on base -- he was behind only MVPs Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer last season in on-base percentage -- is batting just .143 this season in pinstripes. Johnson's patience has cost him a few times, as 14 of his team-high 20 strikeouts have come on called third strikes, including nine of his last 10.

"Sometimes when you're struggling, for Nick, that's probably what happens -- he becomes a little too patient," manager Joe Girardi said. "And when he tries not to be patient, sometimes he swings at the first pitch and maybe he doesn't get the right pitch. There's a fine line in between."

Johnson is in the starting lineup and in the two-hole on Friday; the designated hitter had missed three consecutive games earlier in the week with stiffness in his back, and Girardi had contemplated moving him down in the order. Johnson was 1-for-5 in his last start against the Orioles on Wednesday, with two more backwards K's.

All the while, though, his .385 on-base percentage is fourth on the team -- ahead of the team's first, third and fourth hitters.

"Over time, it's probably going to balance itself out," Girardi said. "Right now, he's on the wrong end of it. Nick is a proven hitter. I believe he's going to hit for us."

Girardi able to keep Yanks' bullpen fresh

NEW YORK -- One of the byproducts of the Yankees' excellent starting pitching to start the season has been a reduced workload on the bullpen. While that has prevented manager Joe Girardi from determining clear roles for his relievers, it has allowed him to keep the 'pen fresh and effective.

"Their work hasn't been as consistent as it was at times last year," Girardi said. "Everybody's gone days without throwing. That didn't happen a whole lot last year."

Yankees relievers, however, haven't shown too many signs of rust. The bullpen has thrown only 47 innings in 21 games so far, an average of under seven outs per game. In 22 April games in 2009, the bullpen was responsible for 71 innings. Furthermore, the bullpen's '10 ERA of 4.21 is more than two runs better than the 6.46 it had through the first month a season ago.