Curtis Granderson 'getting close'

NEW YORK -- Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson said Monday he's optimistic he can return later this month as he continues to recover from a broken left pinkie.

Granderson, who last played on May 24 and has played in just eight games this year, has had no setbacks but has to continue to build up strength before going through proper baseball activities, such as rehab games.

"We're getting close. I started hitting in the cage recently and doing some stuff soft toss," Granderson said at his Grand Kids Foundation luncheon in Manhattan on Monday. "I have been throwing. I've been running. I've been doing all my defense. Just got to get the baseball stuff underneath me in terms of hitting, getting on the field and playing and then get back up here to York."

Granderson began swinging the bat a few days ago after going through work in a swimming pool, and once that was completed he progressed to doing tee and soft toss. The outfielder had to wait four to six weeks after surgery before he could start rehab and therapy work.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman also said last week that Granderson could return in early August, but the outfielder is hopeful he will return to the starting lineup before then. The Yankees lineup sorely misses Granderson's power, as he hit a combined 84 homers over the last two years.

"We'll take him when he's ready," Cashman said. "If pressed about when, I'd probably say early August. If sooner than that, that would be a gift from above."

As Granderson progresses in his rehab, it comes on the heels of Derek Jeter suffering a Grade 1 quad strain in his first game back last Thursday. Injured players returning only to be sidelined shortly after has been a reoccurring theme for the Yankees this season, as Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis all previously played a few games before being sidelined once again. Alex Rodriguez (hip) continues his rehab with his first game with Double-A Trenton on Monday night, and will play third base.

Granderson fractured his left pinkie eight games after returning from a broken right forearm, while Teixeira only played 15 games before he had to undergo season-ending surgery on his wrist. Youkilis returned only to suffer a herniated disc and have to undergo surgery.

Granderson said he can't go in being cautious that an injury might be right around the corner.

"I feel like if I'm ready I'm going to try to do it. I think those guys felt they were ready as well. It's just one of those freak things that happens," Granderson said. "If Derek doesn't end up putting the ball in play his third at-bat, he doesn't end up getting banged up a little bit. All the things end up working itself out and he'll back. The All-Star break fell at a good time for him and hopefully he'll get a chance to be back and be ready for the second half."