HOU@NYY: Nunez ropes a double to left in the sixth

NEW YORK -- Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez was confronted with the video evidence, proving his batting stance had changed too much. He was standing too tall, too upright, and it was making it more difficult for him to hit to all fields.

"My hitting coach, Kevin Long, showed me the video of where I was hitting last year and this year," Nunez said. "I was surprised. I didn't even know that I did that. We started working on that."

Back in his slight crouch and jumping less at pitches, Nunez started to see some results in Tuesday's 7-4 win over the Astros, ripping two doubles and a single in four at-bats.

He had collected just three hits total in 19 at-bats over his previous six games, but if the Yankees are honest about their expectations, they considered Nunez's defense at shortstop much more important than his contributions at the plate.

The fact that Nunez is beginning to stir offensively is, to manager Joe Girardi, a bonus.

"It would be great, because he's done a wonderful job defensively the first month for us. Just great," Girardi said. "Offensively, we really believe this kid is going to hit. We think he can hit, so to get him going with the speed that he has, it creates problems for the defense, the pitchers. It would help us a lot."

Nunez said that he feels much more comfortable at shortstop, having worked consistently with infield coach Mick Kelleher, and it has benefited him to be able to count on seeing his name in the lineup at just one position.

"For sure," Nunez said. "It's different when you don't know where you have to play -- third base, left field. You just work at one position. Take the same ground balls, the same direction, every day. Now I feel a lot more comfortable."

Nunez said that he believes he can continue to improve while he holds the position in Derek Jeter's absence.

"I know he's coming back," Nunez said of Jeter. "I'm trying to do my best and do what I can do to help the team to win before he comes back."

Youkilis feels better after receiving epidural

NYY@TOR: Youkilis rips a two-run single to left

NEW YORK -- Yankees infielder Kevin Youkilis said that his sore lower back is feeling better after receiving an epidural injection, and he expects to be able to rejoin the active roster when eligible on May 13.

"Once the medicine kicks in and takes that down, it's going to be good to go," Youkilis said. "I'm actually pretty happy about it seeing that there wasn't anything crazy."

The Yankees said that Youkilis was diagnosed with a lumbar spine sprain, and Youkilis more specifically said that he has been dealing with a bulging disk and inflammation.

The 34-year-old Youkilis said that the injury is similar to the back issues that forced him to miss 14 games in 2011 and another 22 games last season. He said that he should be able to resume baseball activities within a week to 10 days.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on Tuesday that it had been "a mistake by everyone involved" to permit Youkilis to play on Saturday against the Blue Jays after he sat out the previous six games.

Youkilis said that he probably would have needed the epidural injection eventually anyway, but accepted his share of the responsibility for the situation.

"I think I'm more to blame than others because I should have said I wasn't 100 percent," Youkilis said. "That's probably my mistake. But with the epidural, it's probably going to take seven days -- and if I didn't go on the DL, it would have been 10, 11 days anyway.

"We need guys here to play. Especially going out to Colorado [next Tuesday], being in a National League game and stuff like that. It was the right move. It's going to be good to get it healthy and get it right."

Grandy plays in spring game; Teixeira takes BP

Granderson celebrates Jackie Robinson Day

NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson had two at-bats in an extended spring game on Wednesday, according to Yankees manager Joe Girardi, and Mark Teixeira also appears to be making progress as he rehabs an injury.

One day after Girardi speculated that Teixeira may not be able to return until June, Teixeira tweeted that he took batting practice in the cages at Yankee Stadium, a good sign considering he had been limited to dry swings since April 17.

 

"Felt good hitting balls today, I didn't make one out in the cage," Teixeira said on Twitter.

Girardi said that Granderson's activity on the field in Tampa, Fla., should start the clock for his return, and it is possible that Granderson could be with the Yankees within two to three weeks.

Granderson has said that he would need approximately 50 to 70 at-bats to be big league ready.

"That's a good sign," Girardi said. "We know what Grandy's done since he's been here and the power numbers that he's put up."

Bombers bits

• Brett Gardner received a day off on Wednesday, as Girardi said he wanted to spread around the days off against left-handed pitching. Girardi said that Ichiro Suzuki has been swinging a hot bat (11-for-27 over his last seven games), which also factored into his start on Wednesday against lefty Erik Bedard.

• Chien-Ming Wang turned in another solid outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, holding the Charlotte Knights to a run on six hits over seven innings. Girardi said he is not receiving detailed reports just yet on Wang, who has a 0.95 ERA in 19 innings, but will "slowly investigate how he's doing."

• Girardi said that Ronnier Mustelier, who was in competition this spring for a roster spot with the big league club, has been promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is expected to play there on Thursday.

• On this date in 1920, Babe Ruth hit his first homer as a Yankee, a solo shot off Herb Pennock of the Red Sox at the Polo Grounds. On this date in 1996, Gerald Williams tied a Yankees franchise record by stroking six hits in a 15-inning, 11-6 win at Baltimore.