Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter sit out

BALTIMORE -- New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez returned to New York Monday to consult with a hand specialist regarding his injured left thumb, and his availability for this week's AL East showdown with the Boston Red Sox is in doubt, according to manager Joe Girardi.

"I think it's really questionable," Girardi said before Monday night's series finale between the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. "He's day to day. I don't know if he'll be able to play tomorrow."

Both Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, who suffered a bruised right kneecap after fouling a pitch off himself in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader, sat out Monday's 3-2 win at Baltimore.

Girardi said Jeter was much improved from Sunday night, when he was in obvious pain and hobbled stiff-legged out of the clubhouse after the second game and could be available Monday night in an emergency. He did not get into the game.

Jeter said he plans on returning to the lineup Tuesday when the Yankees open a three-game series with the AL East-leading Red Sox at Fenway Park. He will likely test the injury during the day before the Yankees make a final determination. He said late Monday night that the injury felt markedly better than it had on Sunday night.

"I made a lot of progress going from last night to today and hopefully (Tuesday) I can make some more," Jeter said.

Jeter was pleased with the progress over a 24-hour period, noting that the knee was no longer swollen.

"Today, it just feels like I hit a ball off my knee," he said. "Yesterday, I don't know how to describe what happened."

However, the departure of Rodriguez from the team and his meeting Monday with Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser, a hand surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital, raised flags about his health.

Girardi said Rodriguez had an MRI, which "came back good," and would join the team in Boston on Tuesday.

Asked if he thought it was realistic to hope A-Rod would be able to play in any of the games in Boston, Girardi said, "I sure hope so. I can't tell you. Just depends how the thumb responds to the treatment. He came back and he said he irritated it a little bit more so we just have to be smart about it."

Rodriguez had just returned to the club after missing more than six weeks following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on July 11. But in his first game back, on August 21 in Minnesota, A-Rod suffered what was described as a "jammed" left thumb diving for a ball off the bat of Twins catcher Joe Mauer in the eighth inning.

He has been unable to play in three of the six games the Yankees have played since the injury, although he did hit a home run, his first since June 11, Friday night at Camden Yards. With rosters expanding on Sept. 1, a trip to the disabled list for A-Rod is not necessary. But an extended absence from the lineup is a definite possibility.

"I can't tell you exactly when he'll be back," Girardi said. "It's just when he feels better."

Girardi said A-Rod aggravated the injury in the Yankees' 2-0 loss to the Orioles in the first game on Sunday in which he went 0-for-4, including grounding into a game-ending double play while representing the tying run. Girardi said the thumb bothers Rodriguez more at the plate then in the field.

"Anytime you have a thumb injury you worry about them swinging the bat because of the vibration," said Girardi, who said the Yankees would not rush him back into the lineup despite the importance of the upcoming series with the Red Sox.

"We're going to try to heal it up as much as we can before we put him back out there," Girardi said.

Rodriguez, 36, has played in just 84 of the team's 132 games in this injury-plagued season, and is batting .289 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs. He has not hit fewer than 30 home runs nor driven in less than 100 runs since 1997, when he was a 21-year-old Seattle Mariner.

The Yankees went 25-13 while Rodriguez was out with the knee injury, and his customary cleanup spot in the team's batting order was filled by Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira. His third base duties were split by Eric Chavez and Eduardo Nunez.

Asked if this was a particularly bad time of the season to lose the sixth-leading home run hitter in baseball history -- Rodriguez has 627 career home runs -- Girardi said, "Well, it's an opportunity for someone to step up big. We really wanted to have him fresh and playing healthy. It's just not going to happen right now. So, we'll find a way."

Also, the Yankees activated right-hander Freddy Garcia from the 15-day disabled list, allowing him to start Monday night against the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched six innings of two-hit ball.

"I have to be happy. I wasn't pitching for almost three weeks," Garcia said. "I'm glad to do my job and get a win. We needed it."

Right-hander reliever Hector Noesi was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for Garcia on the 25-man roster.

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.