Just when it appeared that the Yankees were on the verge of getting one of their vital pieces back in the lineup, news surfaced Thursday that left-fielder Brett Gardner suffered a setback during his rehab assignment.
On the disabled list since April 19, with a strained right elbow that he sustained while making a sliding catch against the Twins, Gardner's dynamic presence has been missed on an older, slower Yankee roster.
He had been primed to return in the coming days, but his current setback will likely postpone that for at least a few more games.
Gardner had played two rehab games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was reportedly feeling well before reporting a return of the soreness that had plagued him. In the two games, Gardner was 3-for-5, while walking twice, and had appeared near to a return.
Following his second game, he felt soreness and team doctors discovered inflammation in the elbow which prompted them to send the speedy outfielder for an MRI on the injured joint.
Prior to his injury Gardner had been off to a hot start, hitting .321 with a .424 on-base percentage and two stolen bases. His stellar range and glove in left were equally valuable as he chases down nearly everything hit in his direction.
His speed and dynamic play are integral to a Yankee lineup that doesn't have much of what he offers. Of course, his patient approach and ability to reach base fit in well with the rest of the squad, but he has game-changing speed and the ability to turn any walk or base-hit into a potential double or triple once he is on the base-paths.
As one of the most lethal base-stealers in the game in recent years, Gardner has become an integral member of the Yankees even if he lacks the raw power that many associate with the Bronx Bombers.
With 49 stolen bases in 2011, he tied for the AL lead and he has successfully swiped 137 bases in 165 attempts over his big league career. That's good for an 83 percent success rate.
Not only does he change games with his speed, but he often has long, drawn out plate appearances, frustrating opposing pitchers before turning the lineup over to the potent top of the order.
As of now, his return is being delayed only momentarily, but if it is something that persists, his absence could become a pressing issue for the Yankees.
We will await news of his second MRI with baited breath, hoping that the swelling was merely due to exertion after being on the shelf for a few weeks.
Anything more could be a significant blow to a Yankee squad already reeling from multiple significant injuries early in 2012.