NEW YORK — Outfielder Curtis Granderson became the first of the New York Yankees’ injured stars to return to the lineup, rejoining the team 2½ months after breaking his right forearm in his first at-bat of spring training.
Granderson was activated from the disabled list and set to play left field and bat cleanup Tuesday night against Seattle. Not the easiest day for him to come back, either: Ace Felix Hernandez started for the Mariners.
“I’m ready to play,” Granderson said. “I’m as ready as I can be.”
Granderson took no more chances with future fractures, planning to wear an elbow guard and extra protection on the top of his hand.
“I’m padded up pretty well,” he said.
Still sidelined are shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira and third baseman Alex Rodriguez. The All-Stars haven’t played this season and while Teixeira could be back within a month, Jeter and A-Rod are likely out until the second half.
Infielders Kevin Youkilis and Eduardo Nunez and catcher Francisco Cervelli also are on the disabled list after getting hurt during the season.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi thought Granderson will provide a boost to a team that has overcome injuries and held first place in the AL East.
“I think guys are excited and feel a little lift that Grandy’s in there,” Girardi said.
Brett Gardner was listed in center field, with Ichiro Suzuki in right and Vernon Wells — who had been stationed in left — at designated hitter. Girardi didn’t anticipate trouble in finding playing time for everyone.
“Spread it around a little bit,” Girardi said. “You can’t expect Grandy to go seven or eight days in a row right out of the chute.”
A center fielder for virtually his entire career, Granderson said he’d need to adjust to the lighting while in left. He played all three outfield spots during his five-game rehabilitation at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
New York optioned left-hander Vidal Nuno to Triple-A, a day after he beat Cleveland in his first major league start.
Granderson was 8 for 20 with one homer and three RBIs during his rehab at Triple-A. He also played several games in extended spring training.
The slugger, who led New York with 43 homers last season, broke his arm when he was hit by a pitch from Toronto’s J.A. Happ on Feb. 24. The three-time All-Star originally had hoped to be ready to play during the first week of May.
“I knew the time was going to come, sooner than later,” Granderson said.
Jeter (broken left ankle), Rodriguez (left hip surgery), Teixeira (torn tendon sheath in his right wrist), Youkilis (lumbar spine sprain), Cervelli (broken right hand) and Nunez (soreness on left side) remain on the DL.
Nuno hadn’t pitched for nearly two weeks before earning the win in Cleveland. He said his stay with the Yankees was a valuable one.
“It’s knowing that I can pitch here, that I belong here,” he said. “Now, it’s just timing.”
NOTES: DH Travis Hafner was out of the Yankees’ lineup because of a sore right shoulder that’s been bothering him. Girardi said Hafner would have an MRI a get a couple days off as a precaution.