Yanks' pitching coach returning Tuesday

Updated: June 27, 2010, 10:55 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

LOS ANGELES -- Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland, who left the team June 4 to attend to an undisclosed personal issue, will return to the club Tuesday when New York opens a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium.

"It's been in discussion the past couple of days," manager Joe Girardi said. "I talked to Dave last week and there was a time period where things had to be worked out. Dave is going through some personal things and he's ready to come back now. It's good to be whole again."

In Eiland's absence, bullpen coach Mike Harkey has been serving as the interim pitching coach. Girardi said Eiland has kept track of what's been going on with the team, although at least one of the Yankees pitchers, Phil Hughes, said last week that he had not spoken to Eiland in the three weeks that he has not been with the team.

"I think you'd have to have been on a deserted island with no TV and papers if you're a baseball guy to not know what's been going on," Girardi said. "As much as [Eiland] could, with all the stuff he needed to take care of, he was keeping up. He was not on a deserted island. He was not with Gilligan or Skipper."

But Girardi acknowledged that he, too, had limited contact with his pitching coach.

"I let him have his space to take care of what he had to take care of," he said.

Asked if Eiland spent his time away from the ballclub at his home in Florida, Girardi said, "I'm not gonna tell you exactly what he was doing. That's his business."

Yankees ace CC Sabathia said Eiland's main talent in not only in identifying flaws in a pitcher's mechanics, but in being able to make the pitcher understand what he is doing wrong and how to correct it.

"Dave has certain key words that he says to get you back on track when your delivery's a little off," Sabathia said. "I find him really valuable between games, in side sessions and talking to him about a lineup you're going to face and hitters and things like that. He's real good at communicating, and that's something that is hard for a lot of coaches to do."

Eiland was widely credited with helping Javier Vazquez rebound from a poor start this April. Eiland's absence from the team coincides precisely with the decline of A.J. Burnett, whose string of five straight defeats began June 4, culminating in the three-inning, six-run flameout he suffered in Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Dodgers.

Burnett was not at the ballpark Sunday -- he returned home to attend the funeral of his grandfather, who died earlier in the week -- but Girardi said he hoped Eiland's return would benefit Burnett, whose next scheduled start is Friday against the Blue Jays.

"It could help, and I certainly hope so," Girardi said. "Obviously, it's important for us to get A.J. back on track and if it works, it'll be great."

Wallace Matthews is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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