Notes: Tex returns to lineup after knee drain

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mark Teixeira feels comfortable enough to return to the New York Yankees' starting lineup on Thursday night, less than two days after getting his knee drained.

Teixeira, 34, missed Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays but is ready to return as scheduled following one of his first knee operations in recent years from team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad.

“It’s just an old knee,” Teixeira said. “Had surgery in the offseason of 2007 to clean out cartilage. Acts up every now and then.”

Teixeira’s injury exemplifies an aging lineup, one that the Yankees spent heavily on this offseason to upgrade. Teixeira missed all but 15 games last year due to a wrist tendon sheath injury that required surgery and missed 14 games this April with a hamstring strain.

Despite playing in just 62 games this season, Teixeira leads the Yankees with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs -- no other Yankee has more than nine home runs or 36 RBIs.

Manager Joe Girardi said he’s going to keep a close eye on Teixeira, who will return to first base.

Teixeira said he’s more comfortable now after the pressure was relieved on his knee, though the procedure is still minimally invasive.

“The whole thing takes probably five, 10 minutes,” Teixeira said. “I really don’t mind the needles, it’s really just the pressure of putting it in and taking it out.”

Letting him down easy: The Yankees sent rookie Yangervis Solarte down to Triple-A on Thursday after a June slump saw him hit .162 through 22 games.

In dealing with the often-fragile psyche of a young ballplayer, Girardi exercised caution when breaking the news to Solarte.

Yangervis Solarte

Yangervis Solarte

#26 3B
New York Yankees

2014 STATS

  • GM71
  • HR6

  • RBI30

  • R26

  • OBP.343

  • AVG.260

“As you can imagine when you’ve fought so long to get there and get sent back down, it’s difficult,” Girardi said. “We made it known to him that, you were a big part of our success in the first two weeks, but you’ve been struggling. So go get back on track like you were when you came up to spring training.”

Solarte has been replaced by 27-year-old Zelous Wheeler, who will get his first crack at the major leagues since being drafted seven years ago. The Yankees will do just about anything to get life out of their lineup that has a .251 average on the season.

Wheeler has hit .299 with 31 RBIs in Triple-A this season.

“I think it means a lot, he was drafted in 2007,” Girardi said. “That’s the thing about this game, if you continue to persevere, you never know when your opportunity is going to come.”

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

#45 SP
Minnesota Twins

2014 STATS

  • GM16
  • W8

  • L4

  • BB10

  • K88

  • ERA3.58

Welcome to Hughes’ home: The Yankees will face their former pitcher Phil Hughes for the first time at his new home in Target Field on Thursday.

Hughes has a 4.75 ERA in eight starts in Minnesota this season and has allowed an average of 6.25 hits per start at home.

“He’s been pitching extremely well here,” Derek Jeter said. “I just hope he doesn’t do well tonight.”

Hughes’ lone start against the Yankees came in his return to New York on June 1, in which he lasted eight innings, gave up only two earned runs and nabbed the win.

Hero ball: Masahiro Tanaka is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in his major league career following a 2-1 defeat in his last start against Boston on June 28.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka

#19 SP
New York Yankees

2014 STATS

  • GM16
  • W11

  • L3

  • BB18

  • K127

  • ERA2.10

Tanaka won his only game against Minnesota on May 31, throwing eight innings and giving up just four hits and one run (unearned). His 2.10 ERA on the season is the best in the Yankees’ starting rotation by nearly two full runs (4.08 by Hiroki Kuroda).

Even with the back-to-back losses, Girardi is comfortable with the assimilation of his Japanese ace.

“We knew he was really good, but I don’t think any of us could’ve predicted how he was going to transition,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot in the transition that a Japanese pitcher has to make in our country, throwing every fifth day, the culture, the length of the season.”

Day off: Girardi gave Brian Roberts a day off after he hit 2-for-4 in Wednesday's loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Brendan Ryan will fill in at second base and is batting ninth in the lineup.