NEW YORK -- Reliever Shawn Kelley missed just over a month of the season with a strained lumbar spine. Before heading to the disabled list on May 6, Kelley posted a 3.52 ERA and struck out 16 over 15 1/3 innings. But things have been a little tougher since his return to the team on June 12.
In four appearances entering Friday, the righty has allowed three earned runs over just 2 1/3 innings for an 11.57 ERA in that span. In his most recent outing against Toronto on Thursday, he recorded two outs but surrendered a two-run homer to Edwin Encarnacion.
"I don't get overly concerned," said manager Joe Girardi of Kelley's recent struggles. "Obviously, we need to get him back on a roll. It's important to get him going. It's frustrating for a player when you're pitching so well and then you get hurt and maybe you're not quite as sharp as you've been, but he'll get back on track. That's not something I'm too concerned about."
Kelley seems to share his manager's perspective, understanding that after a month off without pitching or working out, it will still take some time to get back into a pitching routine again.
"I've felt pretty good. I've just got to continue to get my strength back," Kelley said. "It's a process. I felt good in Oakland, didn't feel as good [Thursday] night, but I'm getting there. It's not necessarily what the velocity shows on the scoreboard, but it's more of an arm strength thing and a leg strength thing. That's what allows me to stay through pitches and get that late jump on my fastball and get that sharper bite on my slider. ... It's coming. It's probably going to be another game or two before I feel 100 percent like myself."
As the Yankees began a stretch Tuesday with only one day off before July's All-Star break, having a healthy bullpen figures to be a large priority, especially after it performed well in their recent sweep of the Blue Jays.
"When things are going good, you feel it on the mound, you get in a rhythm, you get in a routine and your confidence is there and you just know when you reach back that every pitch is just going to do exactly what you want," said Kelley. "It doesn't always happen, but when things are going good, you feel like you can do whatever you want out there and that's coming. Even though [Thursday] night wasn't as good, it's continuing to get better."
Johnson out of lineup with bruised fingers
NEW YORK -- Yankees third baseman Kelly Johnson wasn't in the team's starting lineup on Friday against the Orioles, a day after he was removed from a game with bruised fingers.
Manager Joe Girardi said Johnson's fingers are still sore but he would be available if necessary.
The injury happened in the sixth inning on Thursday against the Blue Jays with Johnson attempting to bunt. Girardi said his status is day to day.
Johnson was hitting .333 during his last 10 games, which earned him back his regular spot in the lineup.
"It's not what you want," Girardi said. "It is unfortunate, but we don't think it will be long."
Yangervis Solarte started in Johnson's place at third and hit ninth in the lineup. Solarte has scuffled a bit lately after a fast start. He has not had a hit since June 8 against the Royals, although he did force in a run by drawing a bases-loaded walk on Thursday.
"It's just kind of what you go through as a hitter," Girardi said. "I haven't seen a big change in his at-bats."
Yanks utilizing small ball to generate runs
NEW YORK -- Even though the home run numbers are not what the Yankees expected coming into the season, the team is finding other ways to generate offense lately.
Take Thursday's 6-4 win against the Blue Jays for instance.
Brett Gardner led off the first inning with a double, moved to third on a single from Derek Jeter and scored on a sacrifice fly. In the third inning, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole second base, was pushed to third on a single and also scored on a sacrifice fly. Brian Roberts singled in the sixth, swiped second and third before scoring on a groundout by Jeter.
"I think that's important," said manager Joe Girardi. "That's one of the ways that we create runs -- we have guys that are able to do that and that's been important to our offense."
The Yankees entered Friday's game against the Orioles tied for ninth in the American League in home runs (57), but they are third in stolen bases (52). The offseason additions of Roberts and Ellsbury has given New York another dimension to its offense.
"And when we do start hitting more home runs, and I think you're going to see it, you add that in there and it's a pretty complete offense," Girardi said.
Roberts records career hit No. 1,500
NEW YORK -- Yankees second baseman Brian Roberts connected on a single to right field for his 1,500th career hit in the second inning against Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
The milestone hit came fittingly against the team that drafted him. Roberts spent 13 years and collected 1,452 hits with Baltimore before signing with the Yankees in the offseason.
His highest single-season hits total came in 2008, when he tallied 181 in 155 games.
• Starter Michael Pineda underwent an MRI on Friday to make sure his throwing shoulder had completely healed. The Yankees expect him back sometime in August.
• The Yankees scored a run in the first inning for the third straight game Friday night. They are 15-3 when leading after the first inning this season.
Jamal Collier and Jake Kring-Schreifels are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.