Despite injuries, Steinbrenner optimistic Yankees have playoff shot

TAMPA, Fla. -- Hank Steinbrenner remains optimistic the New York Yankees can make a playoff push despite a rash of injuries to key players in the first half.

Outfielders Johnny Damon (sprained left shoulder) and Hideki Matsui (knee) are on the 15-day disabled list, and staff ace Chien-Ming Wang (right foot) is out until at least September. Reliever Brian Bruney is also out with a foot injury.

Third baseman Alex Rodriguez and catcher Jorge Posada were on the DL earlier this season.

"With what we've got in place right now, we still should be able to make a run," team co-chairman Steinbrenner said Monday night. "We're without Wang, our 19-game winner. That's the biggest blow. We're without Damon for a little while, but he'll be back. Matsui wlll probably be back. It's been a bad year for injuries. The fans got to remember that. Don't get discouraged. Injuries do happen."

The Yankees are 8½ games behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay, which opens a two-game series at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. New York started Monday four games back in the AL wild-card race.

"We have been decimated by injuries," Steinbrenner said. "I don't remember a year this bad as far as injuries. It's had a huge affect, it really has. Nobody wants to make excuses, but it's reality.

"In any sport, I don't care what it is. Soccer, baseball, basketball, football, there's only two things that come under the heading of luck: injuries and bad officiating," Steinbrenner said. "You just hope you don't get the injuries, and we've had them this year."

In other news, Steinbrenner declined to address 11-game winner Mike Mussina's omission from the AL All-Star team.

"I really don't want to comment on other people's selections," Steinbrenner said. "He's been great for us this year. He's done a great job."