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07/13/08 2:30 PM ET

Throwing stronger, Posada catches

Yanks veteran assumes customary role in first half's last game

TORONTO -- Jorge Posada was back behind the plate for the Yankees in Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Blue Jays.

It was the second time in three games that Posada was the Yankees' starting catcher following a six-game absence, when he was strictly used as a designated hitter/first baseman.

Posada's defensive duties have been limited as he tries to work himself back from a right shoulder strain. The 36-year-old has been suffering through rotator cuff tendinitis that forced him to miss 32 games earlier this year and is expected to require offseason surgery.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he has seen some improved results, though, and may be ready to give his veteran backstop more work behind the plate.

"He's feeling better, which is important for us," Girardi said. "As I've said all along, Jorge was signed to be our catcher. It's unfortunate that he had the arm injury, but we think it's responding well and getting better."

The Yankees also received some encouraging news on the status of injured outfielder/designated hitter Hideki Matsui on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who has been out since June 27 with an inflamed left knee, took 55 swings during batting practice on Saturday at the Yankees' Minor League facility in Tampa, Fla.

Matsui is batting .323 with seven homers and 34 RBIs in 69 games this season. If all goes well, the Yankees slugger should be able to return before long.

"Could it be after the [All-Star] break? That's what I'm hoping," Girardi said of Matsui. "That would be the best-case scenario. ... I'm hoping to have him back fairly quickly."

Left fielder Johnny Damon still plans on hitting off a tee on Monday. Damon is recovering from a strained left shoulder and is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on July 20.

Gregor Chisholm is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.