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08/18/09 9:04 PM ET

Matsui thinks ailing left knee will be fine

Yanks DH returns to lineup, says stiffness has subsided

OAKLAND -- Hideki Matsui is ready to put his improving left knee to the test, bringing his left-handed bat back to the Yankees' lineup on Tuesday at the Oakland Coliseum.

Matsui had not played in New York's past three games after having his troublesome knee drained on Sunday during the club's series in Seattle, but he said that the stiffness and lack of motion has subsided.

"There never was any pain," Matsui said through an interpreter. "That's not really an issue. There's the difficulty of movement when there's fluid in there, and it's harder to move the knee. It just feels like there's all this pressure there. Right now it feels very light and easy to move."

Knee difficulties have become a fact of life for Matsui, part of the price he has had to pay for a lengthy consecutive games streak that spanned 1,250 contests in Japan before setting a big league record with 518 straight games played to open his Yankees career.

The 35-year-old Matsui had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after the 2007 season and underwent a similar procedure on the left knee after the 2008 campaign, missing the Yankees' final road trip of the season.

But while Matsui must wear hefty ice packs after each game to guard against inflammation, and the Bombers have been reluctant to permit him to play the outfield, he has been able to limit the severity of his time in the trainers' room.

Sunday marked Matsui's second draining of the season, with the first coming on New York's first homestand in mid-April. He wants to think it was the last.

"I believe I will be fine for the rest of the season," Matsui said. "So far, at least, it's only happened twice over the course of the season. I have a strong feeling that I can finish the season without any more problems."

While Yankees manager Joe Girardi expects that Matsui will have to deal with the issue for "a long time," he said that the procedure was not anything that should keep Matsui -- batting .266 with 19 home runs and 58 RBIs -- out of the lineup for an extended stretch.

"We've always talked about, every day, we're a little bit concerned," Girardi said. "He's been on a roll for us and we haven't had to sit him down for any reason. You hope that this is just a once-in-a-while thing."

Matsui said that there was not any particular at-bat or play when the inflammation flared up, but he did have one of his best -- and most active -- games on Thursday at Seattle, belting two homers and stroking four hits in a five-RBI showing.

The key, Matsui said, is keeping his conditioning and exercise program going regularly.

"I really don't know, going forward, how the knee is going to react," Matsui said. "You just have to do things and have a routine as far as trying to minimize the symptoms and problems as much as possible.

"I feel like I have a routine down to try and minimize that problem as much as possible and manage it. As long as I continue that, it should be fine."

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