ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees are running low on choices at shortstop, so they are keeping their fingers crossed that Eduardo Nunez's right hamstring can tolerate three games on the artificial surface at Tropicana Field.
Jayson Nix's fractured left hand deleted one of the Yankees' primary options at the position, and with Derek Jeter unlikely to return before Monday's series opener at Toronto, Girardi said that he would "have to be a little creative" if anything happened to Nunez.
"You feel like you're playing a little short, but we understand the situation," Girardi said. "I'm OK with that."
When Nix was placed on the disabled list on Thursday, the Yankees recalled right-hander Preston Claiborne from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre instead of an infielder. Nunez is guarding an injury he sustained on Sunday at Fenway Park.
Girardi did play second baseman Robinson Cano at shortstop once earlier this season, and the manager said that Vernon Wells has already volunteered to play the infield again. Alex Rodriguez is not thought to be an option to fill in at shortstop.
"I'd have to see where we are and how guys were and see where we are in the game to decide what I'm going to do," Girardi said. "You probably don't want to move too many guys around, so you try to keep it as simple as possible. We'll see."
Rays' farewell gift to 'Sandman' a fitting one
ST. PETERSBURG -- Mariano Rivera crouched in front of his likeness in the rotunda area at Tropicana Field, grinning as he examined one of the most unusual and unique tributes the Yankees' closer has received during his retirement farewell tour.
Enter Sandman, indeed. The Rays unveiled a large sand sculpture depicting Rivera winding up for a pitch, his body and glove surrounded by the Manhattan skyline. The work of art will be on display for fans to see through this weekend's series.
That would be an interesting feat. The sculpture was produced by Meredith Corson and Dan Doubleday of Treasure Island, Fla.-based Standing Ovations, and it took approximately 2 1/2 days to complete.
Corson said that sand from local Florida beaches was trucked to Tropicana Field, and the sculpting was performed in the building, using photographs of Rivera as a guide.
"Obviously, it's not perfect, but you're just trying to get certain features," Corson said. "If you get the lips just right, or the nose right, then you get the idea of who it is.
"We wanted to do him smiling, because we hear he's a really great guy and he smiles a lot, but with the Sandman and [being] the closer, it didn't go along with smiling."
Rays president Matt Silverman also presented Rivera with a check for $3,150 for the pitcher's foundation, representing $50 for each of the 63 saves Rivera has recorded against the Rays during his career.
"He has done it the right way," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I came away as a huge fan after the All-Star Game in 2009. He is everything you think he is, and he's the best to ever play his position. The tributes are warranted, and I'm happy for the guy.
"He is the best. He's been doing it since he came into the league. I think he's the biggest reason they've dominated for so many years."
The Rays also had a special video tribute planned for Rivera before Friday's series opener.
"The ideas have been creative," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's been fun for us to watch. The cities have been good to Mo."
Rivera shared a moment with the sand sculptors before Friday's game, expressing his appreciation for their art.
"I just know he's a really great guy -- that's what everybody says," Corson said. "I mean, he has to be for a Yankee to be [honored] in this building; he has to be a really good guy. And we did get to meet him, and he seems like a really nice man."
After Gardner's HBP, Yanks request X-rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Brett Gardner said that the Yankees asked him to go for precautionary tests after the outfielder was hit on his right hand during Friday's 7-2 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Gardner was drilled by a 95-mph Chris Archer fastball in the third inning. Gardner stayed in the game, ripping a triple off Archer in the sixth and legging out an infield hit against Jamey Wright in the eighth.
Still, the Yankees would prefer to be cautious, as Gardner said the hand is slightly swollen. He left Tropicana Field wearing an ice wrap.
"It's the same hand I broke in Double-A ball [in 2007]," Gardner said. "It's not too bad, so I'm not too worried about it."
New York lost infielder Jayson Nix to a left hand fracture after he was hit by an 80-mph R.A. Dickey pitch on Wednesday. The Yankees' Curtis Granderson and Francisco Cervelli have also been sent to the disabled list this year with broken hands.
"You're worried about it," manager Joe Girardi said. "Any time you get hit in the hand, we haven't had too good of luck with that this year. You're concerned."
Yanks optimistic Jeter can return on Monday
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees hope that Derek Jeter remembered to pack a passport for his Minor League rehabilitation assignment in Pennsylvania. It appears that the captain will be rejoining the club north of the border.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Jeter is scheduled to play in a third Triple-A game on Saturday. With the big league club playing a day game on Sunday at Tropicana Field, all signs point to the captain being activated for Monday's game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
"The fact is we need him to play [Friday], feel good and be able to bounce back the next day," Girardi said. "If that all goes well, maybe we see him really shortly after that."
Jeter, 39, is attempting to return from his third stint on the disabled list this season. He went 2-for-3 with a run scored, a double and an RBI for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday against Pawtucket.
Girardi said that his report was that Jeter "played well."
"He didn't run 100 percent -- not because he couldn't, but I think he's guarding against [injury], as we told him to," Girardi said. "I'm sure you'll see him move better each day."
Girardi said that it would be difficult to give Jeter -- who has played in just five big league games this season due to left ankle, right quadriceps and right calf injuries -- much more extra time, considering the late stage of the season.
"It's really hard, but you've also got to make sure he's able to do what we need," Girardi said. "You have to make sure he can play."
• Lyle Overbay was in the Yankees' original lineup on Friday but was scratched due to flu-like symptoms. He was replaced at first base by Mark Reynolds.
• Curtis Granderson made his eighth start of the season at designated hitter on Friday. Not wanting to disrupt Alfonso Soriano in left field, Girardi said that Granderson will continue to see time at DH because he seems to have responded to the role.
"You look at his numbers -- his numbers have been pretty good," Girardi said of Granderson, who entered play on Friday 9-for-23 (.391) with two doubles as a DH. "He seemed to handle it pretty well. We'll probably run with that for a while."
• Beginning on Friday, the Yankees have six straight games on artificial turf. Girardi said that Rodriguez may need at least one day off during the stretch.
• On this date in 1968, the Yankees played to a 3-3, 19-inning tie against the Tigers at Yankee Stadium in the second game of a doubleheader. It is tied for the third-longest game in franchise history and the longest without a winner and loser. Yanks hurler Lindy McDaniel pitched seven perfect innings of relief, striking out six.