Mark Teixeira nears return for Yanks

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Mark Teixeira's rehab from a torn wrist tendon sheath is entering its final days, and the New York Yankees first baseman could be reactivated as early as Thursday's game against the crosstown Mets at Yankee Stadium.

A return for next Friday's series opener against the Boston Red Sox is more likely, but Teixeira is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list Thursday. Currently, he is scheduled to play in extended spring training games in Tampa on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, and then play two games with the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees' Double-A affiliate on Wednesday and Thursday.

"I think anything is possible at this point," manager Joe Girardi said. "As long as he has no setbacks, I know there is a plan for him to play in some extended spring and then go someplace else on a rehab."

Teixeira injured himself on March 5 while taking some swings at a tee with a weighted bat preparing to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Although he was able to avoid the kind of surgery that sidelined Jose Bautista for most of last season with a similar injury, his recovery has now stretched to nearly 12 weeks after an original prognosis of an 8- to 10-week recovery time.

"We took it very conservative for the first month," Teixeira said. "The last two weeks in Tampa have been great. It's been really good."

Teixeira began taking live batting practice on the field at the Yankees developmental complex in Tampa the first week of May, and this week progressed to simulated games. Earlier Friday, Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis, also on the DL with a lumbar spine strain, took a half-dozen at-bats each in a simulated game.

Both Teixeira and Youkilis are scheduled to play in their first extended spring games Saturday morning. Beyond that, Youkilis' schedule is undetermined, but Teixeira is slated to take Sunday off, then play games in Tampa on Monday and Tuesday before moving up to Trenton.

Teixeira said he's been ready to return for some time now.

"In my entire career I've never come back late from an injury. I've always come back early," he said, referring specifically to last season, when he returned too soon from a calf strain and reinjured it in the first game back. "This time, it's been the opposite. If it was up to me, I would have been playing weeks ago, but we really made sure there wasn't any pain. By the second or third day of swinging at full speed, I felt normal. I've been feeling great the last couple weeks. We've tried every kind of swing possible, and I've had no problems."

Teixeira hit .251 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs in 123 games last season, all career lows. In his absence, Lyle Overbay, signed in the final days of spring training, has filled in adequately, batting .250 with 7 home runs and 25 RBIs and playing well at first base.

But Teixeira said the time off has helped his body heal more completely than it has in years.

"Being off for so long, any little thing that has been bothering me since college, I've taken care of," he said. "I've tried to really make sure that everything is working properly and my body feels good. I feel great right now. I can't complain about that."

In other injury news, starter Andy Pettitte, out with a strained trapezius muscle in his left shoulder, played catch for the second consecutive day on Friday.

"If I feel good tomorrow, which I better, I'm going to throw a bullpen (Saturday)," Pettitte said. "Tomorrow will be a big day for me to see if it tightens up, and hopefully it doesn't."

After that, Girardi said he expected Pettitte to need just one rehab start or a simulated game before returning to action. He is eligible to come off the DL on June 1.

Catcher Chris Stewart, who missed the past five games with a left groin strain, returned to the starting lineup for Friday's game.