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5/17/2014 3:43 P.M. ET

Yankees not expecting CC back when eligible

NEW YORK -- The Yankees don't know precisely when CC Sabathia will be back, but they expect him to take longer than the minimum stay on the disabled list. Sabathia will be eligible to return on May 26, but manager Joe Girardi said Saturday that the left-hander may need some more time.

Girardi said that Sabathia, dealing with a balky right knee, will be on crutches until early next week and will need some time to ease back into his schedule. The hulking left-hander is flying back to New York on Saturday and is expected to be at the stadium on Sunday, and Girardi isn't quite sure what to expect.

Girardi, in fact, said that he "would be kind of shocked," if Sabathia was ready by May 26.

"There's not a lot of history on this, but because they want the procedure to be as successful as possible, he's on crutches," Girardi said. "It's not because the knee is sore. They just don't want any weight on it. My guess is we'll evaluate him Monday or Tuesday ... and then we'll go from there."

Sabathia saw noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews earlier in the week and was diagnosed with degenerative changes in his right knee that required an uncommon treatment. Sabathia underwent a cortisone and stem-cell injection Thursday, and now he'll need to rest before rushing back.

Girardi joked on Saturday that Sabathia won't be throwing any bullpen sessions by early next week, but the Yankees will basically be making up his rehabilitation schedule as they go. The team wants to proceed as cautiously as possible in order to ensure that Sabathia doesn't have a setback.

"It's difficult for everyone else to figure out, the doctors and our training staff," said Girardi. "As a manager, you have to worry day to day. You can't think, 'Well, you get him in two weeks or you get him in three weeks.' It doesn't do a lot of good for me to spend a lot of time thinking about that."

Besides, Sabathia is hardly Girardi's only worry. The Yankees lost Ivan Nova to a season-ending elbow injury and are waiting for Michael Pineda to recover from an injured muscle in his pitching shoulder, and Girardi knows that his pitching staff is only as strong as the replacements for his injured arms.

"The other guys have to step up in his absence," said Girardi. "Hopefully, we'll get Michael Pineda back fairly soon. And hopefully CC's not out too long, but none of us really know."

Pineda set to test shoulder in bullpen session

NEW YORK -- It's a small step, but it's progress nonetheless. Michael Pineda will throw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Sunday, testing the injured right shoulder that sent him to the disabled list.

Pineda has gone 2-2 with a 1.83 ERA in four starts this season and hasn't pitched since April 23, when he was ejected for using excess pine tar against the Red Sox. Pineda had shoulder surgery in 2012 and missed time with soreness last season, giving the Yankees reason to be cautious.

Now, three weeks removed from his last start, Pineda is ready to make the next step toward recovery. The youngster has rested and strengthened his arm, and now he's ready to take the ball.

"That's really encouraging," said manager Joe Girardi. "It's a good sign that we've gotten to this point and he's ready to throw a bullpen. Obviously, as the intensity heats up a little bit, you pay attention to how he's doing. So far, no setbacks and he's doing well."

The Yankees also have reliever Shawn Kelley on the disabled list with a back injury, and Girardi said that the right-hander should be ready to play catch as early as Monday. Kelley went on the disabled list Wednesday and won't be eligible to return to the active roster until May 28.

Ellsbury out of lineup with flu; Ichiro close to returning

NEW YORK -- The Yankees' outfield is in a perpetual state of flux.

New York knew it would have to scramble as long as Carlos Beltran is on the disabled list, but the Yankees got an unexpected change of plans for Saturday's game. Jacoby Ellsbury was originally in the starting lineup but was pulled hours before game time with flu-like symptoms.

Ellsbury has been one of the Yankees' most durable players this season, and he played in all but one of the team's first 40 games. Rookie Zoilo Almonte made his first start of the season in place of Ellsbury, and manager Joe Girardi said Ichiro Suzuki may be close to returning to the lineup.

Ichiro, listed as day to day with a back injury, could be ready to play as soon as Sunday. Girardi said Saturday that he'd like to give the veteran one more day to make sure he's feeling better.

"On Thursday, I did not have him as a defender or as a pinch-runner. It still bothered him to run," Girardi said. "Yesterday, he came in and said he felt really good. I wanted him to go through today to see where we're at, and if he feels good, I would use him today and play him tomorrow."

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