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06/29/10 7:00 PM ET

Eiland relieved to be back with Yanks

Leave of absence for 'family issue' spanned 21 games

NEW YORK -- For the first time since he took a personal leave of absence on June 4, pitching coach Dave Eiland was back with the Yankees on Tuesday for their series opener with the Mariners.

Eiland did not give any details about the reasons for his absence, calling it "a private family issue that all of us in life go through at some point." The pitching coach unexpectedly left the team in Toronto earlier in the month.

"It was a great feeling," Eiland said of returning to the clubhouse. "Besides being in my home, this is the most comfortable place in the world for me. This is what I do; this is what I have a passion for. So it was good to come in here. But I have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of catching up to do."

Bullpen coach Mike Harkey served as the Yankees' pitching coach in Eiland's stead for more than three weeks, with Class A Staten Island manager Josh Paul and head video coordinator Charlie Wonsowicz filling in for Harkey in the bullpen.

Eiland was appreciative of the job done by Harkey.

"My fellow coaches and [manager] Joe [Girardi] did a tremendous job when I was gone," Eiland said. "We were two or three games back when I left, and now we're two games up. Mike Harkey did a fantastic job while I was gone, and the rest of the coaches stepped up as well. My hat's off to them for all of that."

"It's good to be whole again," said Girardi, whose team went 13-8 in the 21 games Eiland missed.

Eiland said he watched as many games as he could while he was away.

"These are my guys -- this is my second family," Eiland said. "I love what I do, and it was hard being away. I had to go away for a little while and take care of what I had to take care of. I'm back, I'm ready to go and fully focused on doing my part to bring another world championship to this organization."

Eiland spent the early part of Tuesday chatting individually with Yankees pitchers. One hurler he didn't get a chance to speak with was A.J. Burnett, who has yet to return from attending his grandfather's funeral. Burnett, of course, has been the pitcher who has struggled the most during the time coinciding with Eiland's absence. Before June 4, Burnett was 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA. In his five starts since, he is 0-5 with an 11.35 ERA.

Eiland was quick to say that he won't be Burnett's savior.

"For me to sit here and tell you the reason A.J. pitched the way he pitched when I wasn't here is not fair," Eiland said, adding that he has spotted some issues with Burnett while watching the right-hander's past two starts on television. "A.J.'s pitched for a long time; he knows what he needs to do. It's nothing that A.J. and I haven't addressed or discussed already. ... They are very minor things that are going to make a huge difference."

Eiland will get his first chance to work with Burnett on Wednesday, when the right-hander throws a bullpen session. Burnett's next start is scheduled for Friday against the Blue Jays.

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.