Zoilo earning playing time; Gardner doesn't start

Almonte makes big splash during debut

NEW YORK -- After a torrid start to his Major League career, Zoilo Almonte looks like he has played his way into being the Yankees' everyday left fielder.

The rookie went 3-for-4 with a home run in his first career start for the Yankees last Friday, and he's started every game since.

"We're running Z out there. He's played pretty well, and we'll continue to do that, continue to watch how he's doing," manager Joe Girardi said. "But he's done pretty well."

Almonte -- who is hitting .368 with one home run and four RBIs in 19 at-bats -- has essentially replaced Vernon Wells in the lineup. Wells was batting fourth in the Yankees' lineup Thursday against the Rangers, marking the first time he's started a game since June 20.

Wells batted .300 in April, but has struggled since then, batting just .186 since May 1. He has eight hits in 63 at-bats in June.

"I think he's dealt with it very professionally," Girardi said. "He's been ready to play every day. He's ready to pinch-hit, and he's worked very hard."

The veteran was back in the lineup Thursday in place of regular center fielder Brett Gardner, who was simply getting a day off. Girardi said Wells would have started against Texas left-hander Derek Holland "no matter what" though.

Girardi also said Gardner was dealing with a head cold, but the day off was more for rest. Gardner pinch-hit for Austin Romine in the ninth, striking out but keeping his streak of appearing in all 78 games for the Yankees this season alive.

Bombers bits

• The Yankees only had three hitters available off the bench with starter Ivan Nova on the active roster, something Girardi said the team is "going to have to look at." New York had carried four players off the bench for most of the season, but it optioned Thomas Neal to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday to make room for Nova.

"We have to see if there's someone we think can help us that we can add," Girardi said. "That's the bottom line: Is there someone that we think would help?"

• Girardi said he still has no plans for when Nova might make his next start. He said earlier this week that the right-hander could get a start during this stretch when the Yankees play 20 games in 20 days, but he's not sure when that will be yet.

• There are no plans to remove one of the starters from the rotation, and Girardi said on Thursday that starter Phil Hughes was not pitching for his job against the Rangers.