NEW YORK -- Sentimentality will win out over surgery for Hideki Matsui, who has played knowing that his left knee will require a procedure as soon as his playing time is complete.
Now that it appears the Yankees' season will end at the conclusion of the regular-season schedule, Matsui's year may end with the club's final home game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
"When you play in a ballpark and a field that is most dear to you, you gain that sense of importance," Matsui said through an interpreter. "There is a desire to play knowing that you're not going to be able to step onto the field again."
Matsui has not played in the Yankees' last three games and he was again held out of the lineup on Tuesday for the second game of a four-game set with the White Sox.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that the residual effects of Saturday's doubleheader against the Rays played a part, as well as the knowledge that Matsui has not been 100 percent since he went on the disabled list in late June with left knee inflammation that cost him 49 games.
Matsui returned to the Yankees against long odds on Aug. 19, but he is batting .207 (17-for-82) since being activated and will need a procedure similar to the one that repaired damage in his right knee after the 2007 campaign. Girardi said that he would look to get Matsui at least one at-bat in the Yankees' final home game against the Orioles.
"I think Sunday is important to Hideki," Girardi said. "Hideki has been a big part of this organization. Eventually he is going to have surgery, but it's not quite the right time."
Matsui, 34, is in his sixth year with the Yankees after a storied career of success with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan's Central League, where he was a three-time MVP.
Batting .293 with nine home runs and 45 RBIs this year, Matsui said that he formed something of an immediate attachment when he first made it to the Bronx, having been signed as a free agent in January 2003.
"When I first walked into the building, there was an air, an atmosphere, a mood that was really something special and different," Matsui said. "You really felt that with every part of your body."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.