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Yankees put the brakes on Brett Gardner

TAMPA, Fla. -- Brett Gardner took his first swings of the spring on Thursday, but they were not on the field with the rest of his teammates on the first day of full-squad workouts. They were in the batting cage under the stands, off a tee and against some underhand tosses, and it is the only kind of hitting Gardner will do for the next week or so.

It is part of the New York Yankees' plan to bring their starting left fielder along slowly this spring because of a lingering bone bruise on his left wrist suffered in their wild-card playoff loss to the Houston Astros last October. Gardner suffered the injury bracing himself against the wall while making a running catch of Evan Gattis' long drive in the second inning of that 3-0 loss to the Astros and Dallas Keuchel.

Gardner admitted that until about three weeks ago, he was worried about the condition of his wrist, but he now believes he will be ready for Opening Day despite being a few beats behind the rest of his teammates.

"It has taken longer than expected and it’s frustrating at times, but I feel a lot better about where I’m at today than let’s say a month ago," Gardner said. "I’m hoping that over the next week, week and a half, I progress, get up to speed and catch up to everybody else. I think that’s the plan.”

Gardner was troubled for much of 2015 by an injury to his right wrist, after being hit by a pitch in early April. He showed no ill effects during the first half of the season -- he batted .302 in the first half and was named to the AL All-Star team as a reserve -- but tailed off to .206 in the second half. During a normal offseason, Gardner said he would have begun hitting at home around the holiday season. "I knew I was wasn't ready to do that,'' he said. "The last thing I wanted to do, as I got farther along in the offseason, was to push it too hard, take a step backward, and then I’d be in a really bad place.''

"We’re just taking it slow just because we can,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We want to make sure that he clears every hurdle, that he gets through everything. My hope is that it’s not much longer after the other players that he plays, but it’s more being cautionary.”

The Yankees acquired outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins for John Ryan Murphy as insurance against an injury to the aging Carlos Beltran in right. Now, Hicks will serve as insurance for Gardner, too.