MINNEAPOLIS -- After spending 18 games on the disabled list, J.J. Hardy was back in the starting lineup at shortstop for the Twins on Tuesday night against the Yankees, recording a double to right-center field off A.J. Burnett in his first at-bat.

Hardy, who had a deep bone bruise in his left wrist, was activated before Tuesday's game. With Hardy back, shortstop Trevor Plouffe was optioned back to Triple-A Rochester to open up a spot on the roster.

Hardy said he feels fine and is able to do everything asked of him and that the injury feels better every day. He added that the only time the wrist gets sore is if he takes 10 consecutive swings at 100 percent, which the shortstop doesn't foresee happening in a game situation.

"The last three days, I've pretty much been trying to hurt it by going as hard as I can," Hardy said. "It's been fine and it's not getting worse, so I'm pretty confident it's ready to go."

Hardy said he will hold his batting gloves in his hand as a reminder not to put his hand down when sliding -- the way his wrist got injured initially. He also said he will wear a brace when he is on the basepaths to prevent movement.

Hardy said it might take him an at-bat or two to get back into the flow of things, but he isn't too worried about the playing time he missed over the past two weeks.

"I'm going to go out there and battle it out and hope it feels like I didn't miss a game," Hardy said.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is excited to have Hardy back in the lineup, saying the shortstop is someone who can produce RBIs at the bottom of the lineup. While Hardy was out, the Twins went 8-10; when he has played this season, the club is 18-8.

Hardy admitted he was antsy while sitting on the bench during that stretch and was ready to get back on the field.

"It's definitely not easy," Hardy said. "I want to be out there, and I thought this was going to be a two- or three-day thing. It's been a long 18 games, so I'm pretty excited to be back out there."

In brief stint, Plouffe impresses Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Although Trevor Plouffe was optioned back to Triple-A Rochester when J.J. Hardy was activated from the disabled list before Tuesday's game against the Yankees, the Twins were impressed with the infielder's first Major League stint.

Plouffe played three games for the Twins and went 3-for-13 with three RBIs and a run scored.

"He did fine," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I was just talking to him, and he said he felt great. He said he was nervous at first, but once he got going, he was fine."

Gardenhire said he thought Plouffe learned a lot in his three games with the Twins, including how to respond in clutch situations. Plouffe struck out in the bottom of the ninth with two outs against the Brewers in Sunday's 4-3 loss, but Gardenhire said the big situation was a good learning experience for the 23-year-old.

The Twins were also impressed with Plouffe's defensive play -- something that has been rocky at times while he's been in the Minor Leagues.

"It was just his arm action; misfiring," Gardenhire said. "But as you can see, it's something he worked really, really hard on. He did everything he was supposed to here."

Punto remains out with bruised finger

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins third baseman Nick Punto was out of the starting lineup on Tuesday for the second straight game as he recovers from a sore finger sustained while swinging late last week.

Punto received a cortisone shot in his left ring finger on Sunday, and doctors said it would take two or three days for him to be feeling better.

"We were hoping he'd be available today, but [his finger] is pretty stiff," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Gardenhire said Punto would be available to pinch-run for Tuesday's game against the Yankees but wasn't yet ready to do anything else. The manager added it was "iffy" that Punto would make an appearance defensively with the way his finger is feeling.

The Twins are hopeful that Punto will be ready to play in Wednesday's game.

Worth noting

Right-hander Clay Condrey underwent an MRI on Sunday that showed inflammation in his right elbow. Team doctors planned to discuss the next step of recovery prior to Tuesday's game, manager Ron Gardenhire said. Gardenhire said the club will probably decide to have Condrey either pitch through the inflammation or receive some sort of injection. ... Right-hander Pat Neshek has been sent to Fort Myers, Fla., and he was supposed to face live hitters on Tuesday, Gardenhire said. Once Neshek begins pitching, his return to the Twins' bullpen would likely take no more than a few days. Neshek is on the 15-day disabled list with an injury to his right finger.