Jorge Posada benched as Yankees’ regular designated hitter

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In a move that will lead to immediate speculation about top prospect Jesus Montero’s arrival in New York, manager Joe Girardi informed Jorge Posada prior to tonight’s game that he’ll no longer be the Yankees’ primary designated hitter.

Eric Chavez got the start at DH tonight against the Red Sox, with Girardi telling reporters: “At this point I thought I had to do what I did today.”

Asked about the conversation, Posada revealed that Girardi “said he’s going to put the best lineup on the field and he doesn’t know when I’m going to DH again, so right now I’m sitting the bench.”

Posada has hit just .230 with a .681 OPS overall in the final season of a four-year, $52 million contract, including only two extra-base hits in 56 at-bats since the All-Star break. However, according to Girardi there are no plans to release Posada and if Chavez struggles it’s conceivable the Yankees could turn back to him at DH. Unless, of course, Montero gets the call up first.

Montero, who ranked third on Baseball America‘s annual list of top prospects coming into the season, has hit .289 with 11 homers and a .789 OPS in 89 games at Triple-A. Those are incredibly impressive numbers for a 21-year-old at Triple-A, but don’t necessarily project to thriving in the majors quite yet.

Masahiro Tanaka to throw off a mound this weekend

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Earlier this month Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka strained both of his hamstrings while running the bases in an interleague game against the Mets and was sent to the 10-day DL. Today it was announced that the beginning of the end of most DL stints for pitchers — throwing off of a mound — is in Tanaka’s immediate future.

Tanaka is scheduled to throw off a mound Sunday, which will be his first real (well, fake real) pitching action since the June 9th injury. Assuming the session goes well, Tanaka is expected to return to the Yankees’ starting rotation sometime in early-to-mid July. With the All-Star break coming the week of July 16, it would not be hard to imagine the Yankees giving him a few extra days to get right.

Tanaka is 7-2 with a 4.58 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 73/19 in 72.2 innings on the season.