TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is upbeat about his injury-depleted team that has taken the lead in the AL wild-card race.

“I’m very happy,” Steinbrenner said Thursday as he left the Yankees’ minor league complex.

Jason Giambi hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning Wednesday night as New York beat Texas 8-7 to complete a three-game sweep. The victory lifted the Yankees into a half-game lead over Minnesota and Chicago for the wild-card spot.

New York also moved 1 games behind Boston in the AL East race. The Yankees, idle Thursday, open a three-game series at home Friday night against Tampa Bay.

The defending AL East champions have been without slugging outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, and All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano. Matsui and Sheffield are out with left wrist injuries, while Cano has a strained left hamstring.

“Honestly, I’m not very surprised with the way they’re playing,” Matsui said through a translator. “The backup guys are performing well, and it shows how deep our team is.”

Matsui could return to New York and have his wrist re-examined next Wednesday or Thursday. That is when a timetable for resuming batting practice may be set.

“If it was now, at this point, I don’t think I would be permitted,” Matsui said. “Perhaps in a week, if things progress well, then perhaps I may get permission”.

Matsui has been hitting off a tee and taking soft toss with a mini-bat. He is also working out in left field.

Cano is scheduled to run the bases today.

. If there are no setbacks in the next couple days, he could be ready for a minor league rehab assignment early next week.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Cano said. “I’m ready for tomorrow.”

Cano took batting practice and fielded grounders at second base on Thursday.

Sheffield had his cast removed earlier this week. He hopes to return around Sept. 1.

AP-ES-07-27-06 1804EDT


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