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05/03/12 12:31 AM ET

Girardi downplays struggles at heart of lineup

NEW YORK -- As far as his struggling 3-4-5 hitters are concerned, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has found a way to look on the bright side.

"You see some good at-bats, you see some times where they're a little bit out front, sometimes they line out, sometimes they miss their pitch," Girardi said Wednesday. "They're not where they want to be, they're not where we want them to be. But that just means they're due. And the law of averages usually catches up."

Speaking of averages, all three hitters are well below their career mark after about a month of baseball. Alex Rodriguez (a career .301 hitter) was batting .256 heading into Wednesday's game, Robinson Cano (.307 in his career) was hitting .255 and Mark Teixeira (.281 in his career) was batting .233.

The trio combined to go 2-for-12 in Tuesday night's 7-1 loss to the visiting Orioles.

"There's no question we've each got to get better," Rodriguez said afterward. "There's no question in my mind that all three of us are going to get better."

Cano has been particularly quiet this season, tallying just one homer and four RBIs through 23 games. But Girardi said there's nothing about the second baseman's approach that concerns him.

"I just think he's missing his pitch," Girardi said. "He's just a tick off. It doesn't take much to be off. The timing has to be perfect, you have to swing at good pitches. I haven't seen him swing at bad pitches. I haven't seen him be over-aggressive, in a sense. He's a tick off. It'll change."

Chavez exits with whiplash after diving play

NEW YORK -- Third baseman Eric Chavez left in the middle of a fifth-inning at-bat during Wednesday night's 5-0 loss to the Orioles with a whiplash injury and a possible concussion.

He was taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital for head and spine scans and did not make the trip to Kansas City with the team after the game.

Chavez, who seemed to be overcome with dizziness during the at-bat, suffered the injury while diving for a double off the bat of J.J. Hardy in the top half of the inning. Eduardo Nunez replaced him in the lineup and at third for the rest of the game.

"He came off the field [after the play] and said he got a little dizzy, but he was all right," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Then when he was going through his at-bat, he got dizzy. When he stepped out, I noticed it. That's why I ran out there."

Chavez took a 1-1 pitch from Orioles starter Jake Arrieta, a called strike, stepped out of the box, and stepped back in before asking home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt for time. He was helped off the field and into the tunnel in the Yankees' dugout.

The Yankees are already short-handed as far as position players go, playing without outfielders Brett Gardner (right elbow) and Nick Swisher (left hamstring). Nunez, typically a reserve infielder, has been playing outfield, as well.

Girardi said after the game Wednesday that the team would likely make a move of some kind soon, but did not know which players it would involve or when it would take place.

"That hurts," Girardi said. "It's kind of hard to have 10 guys healthy in a lineup. It limits what you can do. You're asking guys to play a lot that aren't used to playing a lot, in a sense. It does limit us. That's why, at some point, I feel we're going to have to make a move here. I can't tell you what it is, but we're going to have to do something."

Chavez is hitting .290 with three homers and five RBIs in 15 games this year.

Phelps thrilled to make first start in homecoming

NEW YORK -- As far as first big league starts go, an outing about 1,200 miles from Yankee Stadium is just about as good as it gets for David Phelps.

The young right-hander, who flew back to Missouri early on Wednesday afternoon ahead of the club, will make his first career start Thursday against the Royals and will be able to do so in front of a few dozen family members and friends. The Notre Dame product grew up in St. Louis and said it's about a 2 1/2-hour drive from his home to Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.

"I'm really excited," Phelps said. "I'm trying as much as I can to take it like it's any other game, but it's a big deal for me. It's going to be awesome. I'm gonna have a lot of family there."

Phelps said he expects at least 25 people there to support him, including his parents, brother and wife.

"It's a lot nicer than if it were to happen in somewhere like, say, Seattle," Phelps said. "It's kind of difficult for some of my family to get up here to watch me throw, so it's really nice to be so close to home. If it's gonna be in any other ballpark other than St. Louis, it's the closest one. It's just good, in a sense, that I can give back to the people that sacrificed so much for me to be where I am today."

The rookie, who has been working as a reliever for the Yankees this season, moves into the rotation after striking out 14 and walking just two in his first 17 2/3 big league innings.

In 20 Minor League appearances last year (all starts) in the Yankees' farm system, Phelps was 7-7 with a 2.99 ERA.

"What has probably helped him is he's been thrust into a role that he's never done before and not in an easy situation, and he's done OK," manager Joe Girardi said. "So he's got that nervousness part out. Managing some of the other things -- your first start and first time your family's gonna see you a lot -- that can be difficult at times. Hopefully he gets in his little area and focuses on what he's got to do."

Gardner's return to be delayed a few days

NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi said left fielder Brett Gardner's return has been pushed back at least a couple days, which will keep the Yankees' outfield shuffle going at least until then.

With Gardner -- nursing a sore right elbow -- and right fielder Nick Swisher (left hamstring) missing time, the team has relied upon Eduardo Nunez, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones to fill the vacancies.

Nunez, who started in left field on Monday and Tuesday, made a costly error on Tuesday night, but Girardi said he's been impressed with the young utility player's progress at an unfamiliar position.

"They've done a decent job," Girardi said. "Any left fielder that we put out there is not gonna be a Gardner. And Swish plays a good right field, as well. That's the bottom line. We've tried to make do with what we have."

Ibanez was brought to New York this offseason primarily to be an outfielder, but he's gotten more than his share of outfield innings.

"I'm not surprised at his production," Girardi said. "I think it's what we expected from him. And it's nice that we can put him in the outfield."

Gardner made the trip to Kansas City for this weekend's series, with his return date to be determined. He said he hopes to hit on Thursday, but it likely won't be until Friday.

"It's just a bone bruise and it's one of those things ... if you don't stay off of it and you aren't smart about it, it's something that'll last a long time," Gardner said Wednesday. "The doctor said he wants me to feel like I'm 100 percent before I go out on the field to air it out, and I didn't feel like I was quite at 100 percent yesterday, so we decided to take a day or two off."

The outfielder described it as "discomfort" in his elbow and said he's just "a little bit worried about it." He has not been taking batting practice outside this week.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.‬ This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.