NEW YORK -- At least for the next two nights, Joba Chamberlain will slide into his old eighth-inning role, and the Yankees right-hander has his best weapons back at his disposal.

The Yankees were pleased to see Chamberlain touch 98 mph with his fastball in a scoreless eighth inning during Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Royals, filling in as Rafael Soriano battles right elbow discomfort. But Chamberlain said he wasn't reading the gun.

"You've got to throw strikes," Chamberlain said. "I don't care how hard you throw in this league. If you don't throw what you want, these guys are going to make you pay."

Chamberlain entered Wednesday with a 3.18 ERA in 17 appearances this season, having struck out 16 and walked three while allowing 12 hits in 17 innings. Manager Joe Girardi said that Chamberlain has been even more impressed by Chamberlain's slider, which seems to have regained some of its trademark bite.

"It's had more depth this year and been more of a swing-and-miss pitch," Girardi said. "At times, he couldn't throw it close enough to the zone to get people to swing and miss.

"His curveball has been pretty consistent, and he's really been a three-pitch pitcher. The overall stuff has been better."

Chamberlain agreed that his consistency has improved -- a major reason that Girardi has trusted him over Dave Robertson for the seventh-inning slot this season.

"We're getting back there, and it felt good the last couple of months," Chamberlain said. "You've just got to continue to keep throwing, keep getting after what you're working and hope it's there."

Hit by pitch on helmet, Cano day to day

NEW YORK -- Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was sent to a local hospital for examination on Wednesday after being hit by a pitch in the helmet and is considered day to day.

Cano was batting in the fifth inning of an 11-inning, 4-3 loss to the Royals when a 93-mph fastball from right-hander Nate Adcock struck the right side of Cano's head, knocking off his helmet and producing a loud crack.

The results on Cano's CT scan were negative, a Yankees spokesman said.

"You never want to see anyone get hit in the head," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "That's scary. As long as he was conscious, that's the first good sign. Hopefully, he'll be all right tomorrow."

Cano appeared to be dazed for a few moments and was attended to on the field by manager Joe Girardi and assistant athletic trainer Steve Donohue, who checked Cano's vision with a flashlight.

Smiling at one point as Donohue cradled his face, Cano walked down to first base with assistance before Donohue frowned, advising Girardi to remove Cano from the game.

"Walking down the first-base line, he said he was OK and felt good," Girardi said. "But if you get hit in the head like that, you have to do a CT scan."

Cano was replaced at first base by pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez. The second baseman was 1-for-2 with a run scored before being hit by the pitch.

"It just got away," Adcock said. "I went two pitches to the outside corner, and you've got to pitch in to pitch in the big leagues. But there was no purpose to hit him in the head or anything like that."

The following half-inning, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett plunked Jeff Francoeur, prompting home-plate umpire Ed Rapuano to warn both benches.

"Obviously, you never want to hit a guy with a runner on, one out and a one-run lead," Burnett said.

"The thing about it is, I know Jeff, so that's even worse. If you know somebody, you don't hit them. Balls get away. I had [five] walks tonight, so I wasn't exactly pinpoint. The whole situation just made it look worse than it was."

Soriano may return to hill by weekend

NEW YORK -- Yankees right-hander Rafael Soriano received encouraging results from an MRI examination on Wednesday and could be available to pitch in this weekend's series against the Red Sox.

Soriano has complained of soreness in his pitching elbow, but tests at New York-Presbyterian Hospital revealed only inflammation.

"He'll be day to day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday. "He won't pitch today. He'll need a couple of days, and hopefully, we'll get him back."

Soriano last pitched on Sunday in Texas but said that he has been feeling discomfort since appearing in back-to-back games on April 30 and May 1 against the Blue Jays in New York.

Girardi said the Yankees do not believe that Soriano's situation bears any similarity to his setbacks in 2008, when the right-hander spent three stints on the disabled list with elbow issues and had season-ending surgery in August.

Team physician Christopher Ahmad and head athletic trainer Gene Monahan concurred that a trip to the DL was not necessary, Girardi said.

"Right now, it isn't, but if it reoccurs, then you'd start to get more concerned about it," Girardi said. "Hopefully, a few days will knock it out. Right now, I'm not comparing 2008 to 2011, but if it keeps reoccurring, you might have some similar issues."

Ayala rejoins Yankees from disabled list

NEW YORK -- The Yankees activated right-hander Luis Ayala from the 15-day disabled list before Wednesday's game against the Royals.

Ayala had been shelved since April 13 with a strained right shoulder, missing 24 games, and allowed a run in five innings spanning three rehab appearances with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

In three relief appearances at the big league level this season, Ayala has allowed two earned runs in five innings.

In a corresponding roster move, right-hander Lance Pendleton was optioned to Triple-A. Pendleton had no record and a 0.00 ERA in four appearances with New York, spanning 6 1/3 innings.

Bombers bits

The Yankees held a moment of silence on Wednesday in recognition of the passing of former Yankees vice president of baseball operations Bill Bergesch and Daily News cartoonist and columnist Bill Gallo. ... Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli met with children on Wednesday afternoon at Mount Sinai Hospital. ... Infielder Kevin Russo has cleared waivers and joined Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Russo was designated for assignment on May 6, when the Yankees claimed right-hander Jess Todd from the Indians.