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Zoilo earning playing time; Gardner doesn't start

NEW YORK -- After a torrid start to his Major League career, Zoilo Almonte looks like he has played his way into being the Yankees' everyday left fielder.

The rookie went 3-for-4 with a home run in his first career start for the Yankees last Friday, and he's started every game since.

"We're running Z out there. He's played pretty well, and we'll continue to do that, continue to watch how he's doing," manager Joe Girardi said. "But he's done pretty well."

Almonte -- who is hitting .368 with one home run and four RBIs in 19 at-bats -- has essentially replaced Vernon Wells in the lineup. Wells was batting fourth in the Yankees' lineup Thursday against the Rangers, marking the first time he's started a game since June 20.

Wells batted .300 in April, but has struggled since then, batting just .186 since May 1. He has eight hits in 63 at-bats in June.

"I think he's dealt with it very professionally," Girardi said. "He's been ready to play every day. He's ready to pinch-hit, and he's worked very hard."

The veteran was back in the lineup Thursday in place of regular center fielder Brett Gardner, who was simply getting a day off. Girardi said Wells would have started against Texas left-hander Derek Holland "no matter what" though.

Girardi also said Gardner was dealing with a head cold, but the day off was more for rest. Gardner pinch-hit for Austin Romine in the ninth, striking out but keeping his streak of appearing in all 78 games for the Yankees this season alive.

Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for
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