Brett Gardner suffers another setback

NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner's chances of missing the remainder of the season increased Monday when it was revealed that the New York Yankees outfielder once again experienced pain in his injured right elbow.

Gardner, who has played in just nine games this season, felt stiffness in the elbow after playing in a simulated game Sunday.

Gardner's agent, Joe Bick, acknowledged the possibility that his client might not play again in 2012.

"We don't want to think that way, but it's certainly got to be in the conversation," Bick said. "The severity of this injury has caught us completely off-guard."

According to Bick, Gardner likely will undergo another MRI -- he has already had at least two in addition to an examination by Dr. James Andrews, the renowned orthopedic surgeon who specializes in elbow repair and Tommy John surgery -- probably on Tuesday.

"We just want to get another read on it," Bick said.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi reported Gardner's latest setback during his pregame news conference before Monday's contest against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"He came up a little sore today so he's not playing today," Girardi said. "It's a concern because it's happened before. The doctors have all come up with the same diagnosis, so it is puzzling. I can't tell you what is going to happen next. We'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings."

Gardner has not played since April 17, when he suffered what was described as a bone bruise after attempting a diving catch against the Minnesota Twins.

At the time, Gardner expressed optimism that he would return to the lineup the next day. But in the ensuing three months, he has been shut down three times -- the latest for nearly a month -- after experiencing a recurrence of pain in his elbow when taking swings.

"Certainly there has been reason for optimism," Bick said. "But whenever he gets to the point of taking live at-bats, the pain comes back. It's a mystery."

Gardner took four at-bats in a simulated game in Tampa on Sunday and called Bick later that night to report that "something doesn't feel right."

But Gardner delayed calling the Yankees until Monday morning, hoping the pain would subside overnight.

"This morning, it was very stiff and sore," Bick said.

Gardner was batting .321 with a .424 on-base percentage this season and was expected to provide speed and chaos on the basepaths for a powerful lineup that sometimes has had problems creating runs.

The Yankees have sacrificed some speed without Gardner, who tied for the league lead with 49 stolen bases in 2011. But although Alex Rodriguez's 10 steals are a team high, New York's 54-34 record is the best in baseball.

In Gardner's absence, the Yankees have used a left-field platoon of Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones, who have combined for 22 home runs and 58 RBIs.

"Not as an insult to Brett Gardner, but we haven't missed him," general manager Brian Cashman said Sunday. "He's a huge asset that we can use, but have we missed him? No. ... I don't feel that if (Brett) doesn't come back, that I have to do something here, because the other guys are doing such a great job for us in my opinion."