Matsui is expected to start when the Yankees (8-9) begin a two-game series at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a matchup of baseball’s best offense and its worst defense.
Matsui was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 8 with a strained left hamstring he suffered the previous day running out a grounder in a win over Baltimore. He hadn’t missed a game in his first three seasons with New York from 2003-05, but was limited to 52 games last year by a broken wrist.
After two rehab appearances with the Yankees’ Class A team in Tampa, Matsui declared himself healthy.
“Physically, I’m fine,” Matsui said through an interpreter. “I want to join the team as soon as possible and be a strength to them … help them win.”
The Yankees will need Matsui back in the lineup to help them bounce back from a tough weekend during which they blew leads in three straight games en route to being swept in Fenway Park for the first time since 1990.
New York was 6-3 against the Devil Rays in Tampa last year, and is 47-28 all-time in Tropicana Field. The Yankees also have a commanding 102-48 advantage in the all-time series.
This year, the Yankees lead all teams with 108 runs scored, while the Devil Rays have given up a major-league worst 114 runs.
The Yankees’ prolific offense wasn’t enough against Boston in a 7-6 loss Sunday night. They were trailing by a run with a man on first when Alex Rodriguez—who already has two game-winning home runs this season and leads the majors with 12—grounded out to end the game.
“We didn’t play well and we lost three games,” said Derek Jeter, who hit his first home run.
Rookie Kei Igawa (1-0, 6.06 ERA) will try to help New York avoid its first four-game skid since June 8-11.
The left-hander gave up seven runs and eight hits in just five innings during his major league debut on April 7. In two starts since, he’s pitched 11 1-3 innings and has yielded just five runs and eight hits.
Igawa earned his first major league decision in New York’s 9-2 win over Cleveland on Wednesday. This is his first career start against Tampa Bay, which also is coming off a tough loss. The Devil Rays (7-11) blew a 4-2 lead in the ninth inning and lost to Cleveland 6-4 on Sunday, their third defeat in four games.
“You lose tough games like that, you lose them together. You win tough games, you win them together,” manager Joe Maddon told the Devil Rays’ official Web site.
Tampa Bay will send Casey Fossum (1-1, 6.11) to the mound. Like Igawa, Fossum has rebounded from a poor season debut. He gave up seven runs in 3 2-3 innings in his first start, but has allowed only five runs in 14 innings since then.
The left-hander didn’t earn a decision while posting a 4.38 ERA in two starts against the Yankees in 2006.
New York’s Jason Giambi is 10-for-28 lifetime against Fossum. Rodriguez batted .111 (3-for-27) in eight games at Tropicana Field last year.
These teams split two games at Yankee Stadium to open the season. Tampa Bay rookie outfielder Elijah Dukes homered in both games, becoming the first Devil Rays player to homer in his first two major league games. Dukes, though, is batting .171 (6-for-35) with no home runs since that series.