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Yankees Insider: Gardner steals some of spotlight off bench

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Brett Gardner steals second in front of Tampa Bay's Tim Beckham.Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Brett Gardner steals second in front of Tampa Bay’s Tim Beckham.

ST. PETERSBURG — An MRI taken Thursday confirmed that Brett Gardner’s right wrist suffered little more than a bruise when he was hit by a pitch Monday night, but the left fielder remained out of the lineup Friday for a third straight game.

Yet when it was all over, Gardner had played a huge role in the Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Rays.

Gardner pinch-ran for Carlos Beltran in the eighth inning, stealing second base to set up Alex Rodriguez’s game-winning hit. “It was definitely nice to get back out there and play my game,” Gardner said. “I missed what, three or four days? But it feels longer than that.”

Gardner took batting practice and said his wrist felt good, but Joe Girardi opted to play it safe and give the outfielder one more day to let the wrist heal. Gardner was sporting a new padded brace on his wrist that he plans to wear in games.

Girardi said Gardner would likely have remained in the game and taken his at-bat had his spot come around in the batting order, but he would not commit to starting Gardner on Saturday.

Girardi maintains that he doesn’t have a set closer, yet Dellin Betances entered Friday’s game with two out in the seventh inning, pitching a scoreless frame before handing off to Andrew Miller for a four-out save.

Miller has now converted all three of the Yankees’ save opportunities this season.

“He’s done a really good job, and it was good to see all our guys get back on track,” Girardi said of the bullpen, which threw five scoreless innings. “I thought

Dellin did a really good job as well tonight. But Andrew’s done the job, that’s for sure.”

Friday marked the first of 13 straight games for the Yankees without an off day, part of a stretch that will see Girardi’s team play 30 games in 31 days through May 17.

Girardi said during the spring the Yankees might insert a starting pitcher into the rotation for one turn during that stretch, giving the five regular starters an extra day of rest. Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell are candidates to come up from Triple-A, while long man Esmil Rogers could also make the start.

Brendan Ryan (calf strain) will travel to Tampa next week to begin extensive baseball activities. . . . Chris Capuano (quad strain) and Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) continue to go through a throwing program, tossing batting practice this week. Girardi said Nova could make his first rehab start around May 1. . . . Jose Pirela (concussion) is going through baseball workouts and could begin playing games in extended spring training beginning next week.

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