Russell Martin eyes Sunday return

Updated: June 12, 2011, 8:18 AM ET
By Mike Mazzeo and Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin participated in batting drills, threw long-toss with right-hander A.J. Burnett and hopes to play on Sunday afternoon when the Yankees finish up their four-game series with the Cleveland Indians.

Martin, who has been out since Wednesday with a stiff back, missed his fourth consecutive game on Saturday afternoon. The Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 4-0 and have now won two in a row following a three-game sweep at the hands of their American League East rivals, the Boston Red Sox.

"We'll see how I feel (Sunday)," Martin said. "But that's the plan to be ready for (Sunday)."

Francisco Cervelli, who's had a tough time throwing runners out in recent games, started again in place of Martin. He finished up 0-for-3 with a strike batting out of the No. 8 spot in the lineup.

Manager Joe Girardi doesn't think Cervelli will have to catch six or seven games in a row -- in case Martin is out for a more prolonged period of time -- but said his young backstop is capable of doing so.

"I hope (Russell will be back)," Girardi said. "And if we don't (have him Sunday), we'll hope for Monday. But he was able to go through some soft-toss and flip, and played long-toss with A.J. and he seemed OK."

Jorge Posada would be the emergency catcher in case Cervelli gets hurt.

"I've talked to him about it first," Posada said. "He's ready."

Martin injured his back during a postgame workout on Tuesday, but an MRI taken Thursday revealed that he had no disk damage.

Martin is hitting .238 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs in his first year in pinstripes.

Cervelli has already committed five errors in just 14 games. Girardi said there was a mechanical flaw in his throwing motion -- he was opening up too early, causing the ball to sail -- and they were watching video and doing drills to correct it.

He had three throwing errors (all on throws to second) in a two-game stretch against the Red Sox earlier this week.

Girardi also confirmed that Phil Hughes (right shoulder inflammation) is on track to make his first minor league rehab start on Tuesday for the Gulf Coast Yankees. Hughes, who has been on the disabled list since April 15, will throw a bullpen on Saturday.

Girardi said it is plausible that he could be placed in the bullpen when he comes off the DL, but reiterated that the organization's plan is to "have him as a starter."

"But you never say never on anything," Girardi said. "I don't think you should do that when you're in my position. But our plan is to have him as a starter."

Girardi said that right-hander Rafael Soriano (right elbow inflammation) hopes to begin throwing by the beginning of next week. He's been on the DL since May 14.

As for corner infielder Eric Chavez (fractured left foot), Girardi said he's making progress and doing some work in the cage, but still hasn't run yet. Chavez has been out since May 6.

Chavez was transferred to the 60-day DL, and has set July 4 as a target date for his return.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley contributed to this report.

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