Oblique strain could sideline Gardner rest of season

Oblique strain could sideline Gardner rest of season

Oblique strain could sideline Gardner rest of season

BOSTON -- The Yankees are preparing to play through the remainder of the regular season without Brett Gardner, who suffered a Grade 1 strain of his left oblique on a checked swing during Thursday's 6-5 win over the Orioles.

Gardner had an MRI performed on Friday in New York that revealed the strain. Losing the 30-year-old, who performed well as the club's leadoff hitter and everyday center fielder, will be a tough blow as the Yankees attempt to chase a playoff spot.

"It's a big loss," manager Joe Girardi said. "We've had to overcome a lot over the course of this year and we're going to have to continue to do that. People are going to have to step up in his absence."

Girardi said that it is possible that Gardner could return first as a pinch-runner, then as a full player, if the oblique strain heals quickly. However, Girardi also acknowledged that it is possible Gardner has played his last game of the regular season.

Gardner had been one of the Yankees' few constants in an injury-riddled season, batting .273 in 145 games while setting career highs with 147 hits, 33 doubles and eight home runs.

"He's been really good for us -- offensively, defensively, getting us off to quick starts," Girardi said. "And he's going to be out a while."

Curtis Granderson was in the lineup batting leadoff and playing center field on Friday as the Yankees opened a three-game weekend series with the Red Sox.

"It always helps when you have players who can fill in," Girardi said. "But [Gardner is] an element that, we talked about last year how we missed that element a lot. And guys are going to have to step up. There's no doubt about it."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.