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04/15/08 7:07 PM EST

Karstens nearing return to mound

Posada's shoulder, Molina's hamstring feeling better

ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Yankees went north at the end of Spring Training, they left Jeff Karstens behind for a second consecutive year due to injury, instructing the right-hander to hang around the club's Minor League facility on a rehabilitation assignment.

Considered a strong candidate to make the Major League roster, Karstens tweaked his right groin on March 27 at George M. Steinbrenner Field, ending his chances of making it to Opening Day. The Yankees have played in Miami, New York, Kansas City and Boston between that date and their current visit to Tropicana Field, but Karstens has been here ever since.

The 20-minute drive to St. Petersburg, then, was a welcome escape for the 25-year-old, who visited with his Yankees teammates on Tuesday and was hugged by Alex Rodriguez as Karstens spoke with reporters.

"I'm ready to get out of Tampa," Karstens said. "I've been miserable. I'm the only one who goes in on Sundays and I'm there by myself."

Karstens is close to getting back on a mound at the Yankees' Himes Avenue Minor League complex, and he's not alone. Right-hander Humberto Sanchez threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and righty Andrew Brackman, out for the year following Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, threw off a half-mound for the first time.

Another injured Yankees hurler, left-hander Sean Henn, has made three scoreless appearances for the Class A Tampa Yankees (four innings, five hits, five strikeouts, no walks) after being sidelined with left shoulder tendinitis and is nearing a promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

There is no immediate timetable for Karstens to see game action. He missed the Yankees' first 15 games last year with right elbow tendinitis and then suffered a fractured right fibula in an April 28 start against Boston, missing 84 games before resurfacing later in the season.

"I'm going to take it slow because they don't want it to happen again," Karstens said.

Meanwhile, catcher Jorge Posada was scheduled to throw about 45 tosses on the field after the Yankees took batting practice on Tuesday. He said his strained right shoulder felt "better" and that he was "closer" to returning to defensive duty.

Manager Joe Girardi said that Posada had no plans to receive a cortisone shot and said his injury was unrelated to a second consecutive day out of the lineup.

"There's just not enough spots. If I could bat 10 people, I would," Girardi said.

Catcher Jose Molina also reported that his strained right hamstring improved and that he would continue to receive treatment. Molina is the emergency backup for Chad Moeller, who made his second consecutive start for New York on Tuesday.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.