Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Friday that Matsui would be limited to pinch-hitting, possibly for a few more days. Right fielder Xavier Nady already is on the disabled list, and first baseman Mark Teixeira was in the starting lineup despite a sore left wrist that required a cortisone shot a day earlier.
That left New York with a short bench heading into the second game of a four-game series against Cleveland, a 6-5 Yankees win.
Reliever David Robertson, recalled from Scranton a day earlier when Nady went on the DL, was optioned back to the Triple-A team.
Matsui had surgery on the knee Sept. 22, and the Yankees don't expect him to play the outfield until June.
"His knees are pretty beat up, and you don't know how they're going to react from day to day. Hopefully, it's just one day for him," Girardi said. "Yeah, it's somewhat discouraging, but I think it's something we're going to have to deal with a lot during the course of the year just because of the stage of where he is in his career with his knees. ... Maybe he has taken a little step backwards, but that doesn't mean it's always going to be there. Sometimes it can be one movement that causes it."
Speaking through a translator, Matsui said the knee had been getting better and then regressing in repeated waves, but that he felt it was generally improving. He struck out as a pinch hitter and hoped he could be back to designated hitter by Saturday or not long after.
Teixeira, a switch-hitter, will be limited to batting left-handed for a few days. He said the cortisone shot made "a huge difference" and he homered off the facing of the second deck in the third inning, combining with Johnny Damon for back-to-back shots off Anthony Reyes.
"I saw the doctor again today, and he said that it should keep getting better and, you know, we shouldn't have any setbacks," Teixeira said.
Nady was to have a CT scan on his elbow Friday and a non-dye MRI exam Saturday as doctors try to determine whether he was a torn elbow ligament that requires surgery. He's already had two X-rays, a dye MRI exam and a CT scan.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, coming back from right hip surgery on March 9, took batting practice for the second straight day and is pleased with the progress of his rehab.
"It's good," said Rodriguez, who is working out at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Fla.
A three-time AL MVP, Rodriguez hasn't ruled out rejoining the Yankees before the target date of May 15.