- Associated Press - Sunday, September 5, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Alex Rodriguez had a pair of hits and drove in a run in his return from the disabled list Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to help the New York Yankees avoid a 7-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays that snapped their eight-game winning streak.

Rodriguez grounded out his first two times up before two singles, including a groundball in which he beat out the throw to first. He struck out looking to end the game.

“It felt pretty good, definitely a sigh of relief,” Rodriguez said. “You always have a little hesitation. You really don’t want to bust it 100 percent until you get the games under you.”

Rodriguez hadn’t played since Aug. 20, though his left calf was bothering him before that.

The All-Star slugger walked through the clubhouse nearly four hours before the first pitch and took batting practice in the indoor cage. Manager Joe Girardi didn’t post the lineup with A-Rod’s name on it until about 90 minutes before the game.

“We just felt he was ready,” Girardi said. “We feel he’s healed and he’s ready to go.”

Still missing from the starting lineup was outfielder Nick Swisher, who’s been dealing with a stiff left knee since leaving Thursday’s game against Oakland after one inning. He had an MRI exam before the game that came back negative, and Swisher pinch-hit in the eighth inning.

“There was a deep pocket in the knee where there’s inflammation,” Swisher said. “There’s nothing torn or broken, so as far as we’re concerned, it’s let’s get it on. I may not be comfortable with it, there may be pain for a few days, but there’s nothing serious.”

A-Rod has struggled much of the season, at least by his standards, hitting .266 with 21 home runs. But many of his hits have come with runners in scoring position and other clutch situations, and he’s still second on the team with 98 RBIs in only 113 games.

Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena had been filling in at third base for A-Rod, and while neither of them provides the kind of offense that the three-time AL MVP can produce, the Yankees didn’t miss a beat with them in the lineup. They went 11-3 with Rodriguez on the disabled list, and are 22-3 overall when the 13-time All-Star is out of the lineup.

“A lot of these guys have done a really, really good job,” said Girardi, who toyed with the idea of giving Rodriguez another day off until his performance in a simulated game Saturday.

“The simulated game gave him a comfort level that he was ready to go.”

Andy Pettitte was also in the clubhouse before the game and reported no problems after pitching to Rodriguez during the simulated game. He’s hoping to have a bullpen session Monday and a minor league rehab start Wednesday, though it’s unclear where that will be.

“I’m waiting to see,” Pettitte said. “Our minor leagues are all over the place with road games and such. I’d like to do something Wednesday. That’s the plan.”

Pettitte felt a little sore after his 50-pitch outing but said it was nothing out of the ordinary. He’s been out with a strained left groin since July 19, and is still holding out hope that he could rejoin the Yankees during a road trip next week to Tampa Bay and Baltimore.

“We’re holding pretty firm on pitching in a (rehab) game Wednesday,” he said. “I still want to be careful. I will probably feel out the first couple innings and see where I’m at.”