NEW YORK -- First baseman Mark Teixeira returned to the No. 3 spot in the Yankees' starting lineup for Wednesday's game against the Royals after spending the previous two games batting seventh for the first time since his rookie season.

"The competitor in me says I want to hit where I've always hit," Teixeira said. "We've had a lot of success, and we've won a lot of games with me hitting third. It does mean something, but numbers are numbers. I don't think on anyone's Hall of Fame plaque it says where they hit in the order."

Teixeira hopes that dropping down in the order will help jumpstart his offensive production. Hampered by severely inflamed bronchial airways that have lingered since the first week of the season, Teixeira entered the series finale hitting .229 overall, and .209 in 19 games this month -- well below his lifetime .283 average in May.

Over the course of his career, Teixeira is a .287 hitter in the No. 3 spot, and it's where he's produced the majority of his power numbers.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he moved the switch-hitting Teixeira back to the three-hole because he liked his first baseman's chances against Kansas City's starter, left-hander Will Smith, who was called up from Triple-A Omaha to make his big league debut on Wednesday.

"You look what Mark has done over [this] period as a right-handed hitter -- he's been outstanding," Girardi said. "We have not swung the bats particularly well against left-handers so far this year, so I'm going with some track record and putting some guys where they've had a lot of success."

Teixeira attributed his early-season struggles to a new approach that hasn't worked. His .248 average last season led to some criticism, and he's tried to raise it by swinging at pitches he isn't driving for power. However, the difficult stretch this season has made Teixeira think he's putting the ball in play too much. Instead of waiting for a pitch he can hit for a home run, he's swinging at pitches and making outs.

"I've just been putting too many balls in play, I think," Teixeira said. "While last year, 39 home runs but a low batting average wasn't good enough, I think I'd rather hit 39 home runs than 20 or 15. I'd rather drive in 111 runs than 80. I'm going to be more aggressive."

A-Rod emphatically breaks free of slump

NEW YORK -- One of the Yankees' most prolific hitters, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez entered Wednesday's 8-3 win over the Royals batting .276 and slugging just .404, with an on-base plus slugging percentage of .773. The third baseman had just five home runs and 15 RBIs this season, and he had gone homerless and recorded only one RBI since May 6.

But Rodriguez put his early-season frustrations in the past -- temporarily, at least -- with two homers in the first three innings off Royals rookie Will Smith. The first was a two-run drive to left field, and the second was a solo shot to center field that gave the slugger his 60th career multihomer game.

Before the game, manager Joe Girardi said he thinks Rodriguez has fallen victim to some bad luck, and that A-Rod has still been hitting the ball hard. Rodriguez, who went 1-for-4 and was hit by a pitch on Tuesday, stole second when he reached on a single in the fourth inning.

"That's what Alex does," Girardi said. "He's a complete player. He's very heads-up, he's very smart and he knows how to play the game. If he sees the little opening they're going to give you, he's going to take advantage of it."

Rodriguez also put away the Royals in the ninth inning, throwing out Alcides Escobar at first on a play that nearly pushed home the tying run.

As far as the hitting goes, Girardi is not ready to give up on Rodriguez.

"He can get on a streak, and if he gets on a streak, he can carry you," Girardi said. "And if he feels good, that's a good sign for us."

Jeter moves up hits list with No. 3,152

NEW YORK -- With his single in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 8-3 Yankees win over the Royals, shortstop Derek Jeter tied Hall of Famer Paul Waner for 15th place on baseball's all-time hits list.

Jeter, who went 3-for-5 to run his career total to 3,152, is two hits behind George Brett for 14th place.

"It's hard to believe, if you think about it," Jeter said. "I really don't try to think about it too much. I just try to go out there and get some hits and do my job. I wasn't aware of it until they asked for the ball, but it's kind of cool."

The win was Jeter's 18th multihit game of the season. The captain said he feels as though he's in good shape physically, and his numbers are reflecting it this season.

The 37-year-old 12-time All-Star is hitting .348 with five home runs and 16 RBIs this year.

Gardner, Robertson near rehab stint

NEW YORK -- As planned, Brett Gardner and David Robertson will travel to Tampa, Fla., on Thursday to begin rehab work, although Gardner is unlikely to swing a bat before Monday. Upon arriving at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Robertson will play catch for the first time since straining his left oblique.

On Wednesday, Gardner underwent an MRI exam on his injured right elbow that revealed a healed muscle, although the left fielder still feels stiffness, likely from a bone bruise, according to manager Joe Girardi.

"He will still go to Tampa for treatment, working out his legs and stuff," Girardi said, "but our hope is he will start hitting off a tee on Monday."

Robertson is eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday, but a return that early is out of the question. Girardi said the right-hander is targeting a return during the Yankees' June 1-3 series in Detroit.

Righty Rafael Soriano is the Yankees' closer in the interim, and Girardi would not say how he will arrange the back end of his bullpen once Robertson returns.

"Here's my prayer: Let's just get Robby back," Girardi said. "Let's just get him back to where he's comfortable and get him in a game before we start making official decisions."