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04/28/09 8:23 PM ET

A-Rod continues to progress in rehab

Injured star participates in sliding drill, simulated game

DETROIT -- Alex Rodriguez continues to clear hurdles as he moves closer toward returning to the Yankees' lineup, testing his surgically repaired right hip with five slides at the club's Minor League training complex on Tuesday.

Rodriguez also logged 15 at-bats during a simulated game in Tampa, Fla., facing rehabbing pitchers Sergio Mitre (elbow) and Paul Patterson (shoulder) while hitting several hard liners to right field and strong ground balls up the middle, according to The Associated Press.

"A good day," Rodriguez told the AP. "It felt good. Good to be out there."

In Detroit, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that it was encouraging that Rodriguez was able to hit the dirt without any issues. Sliding had been considered one of A-Rod's final tests before he could be cleared for game action, likely to come in an extended spring contest.

"That's a good sign," Girardi said. "We'll wait and see how he feels tomorrow, and he will take live [batting practice] again tomorrow and we'll see where we're at."

While the Yankees have repeatedly stated that May 15 would be the target date for Rodriguez to return from the March 9 procedure to repair a torn labrum, it appears that the three-time American League MVP is on track to return sooner.

According to SI.com, Rodriguez has moved up his target return date to the first week of May, and he's expected to start playing in extended spring games this week. Girardi said he would keep his public expectation to May 15, so as not to hurry A-Rod.

"I think Alex understands that we need to have him back as close to 100 percent as possible," Girardi said. "We need to have him back where he can play every day. We've reminded him [not to] rush. I think he understands that. I know he doesn't want to have a setback.

"I'm going to stick to that date, because I don't want to put pressure on him. I want to make sure that he feels that he's ready to go, ready to play every day and be a contributor."

The Yankees could use a healthy Rodriguez as soon as possible. Cody Ransom suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps during a weekend sweep at Boston's Fenway Park and was batting .180 in 15 games, so the Bombers are attempting to patch through with a combination of Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena.

In addition to the live BP, Rodriguez took 28 swings in regular batting practice before the simulated game and 66 afterward. He also started fielding popups from a pitching machine, the AP reported.

Elsewhere at the complex, right-hander Chien-Ming Wang threw 50 pitches in a bullpen session, and he's expected to pitch in a game situation on Saturday. Wang was diagnosed with weakness in the abductor muscles of his hips after posting a 34.50 ERA in three starts for New York; his replacement, Phil Hughes, is started on Tuesday in Detroit.

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