ST. PETERSBURG -- Hoping to maintain their grip on first place in the American League East, the Yankees notched a small victory on Tuesday afternoon, as second baseman Robinson Cano was cleared to return to the starting lineup after an injury scare.

Cano felt his left hip tighten as he chased Chris Gimenez's eighth-inning RBI single in the Rays' 4-3 win over the Yankees on Monday at Tropicana Field. After receiving treatment, Cano was feeling good enough to serve as the club's designated hitter.

"Especially since it's on turf, you don't want to make it worse," Cano said. "Hopefully, I'll be back at second [base] tomorrow."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he wasn't 100 percent sure Cano would be able to play on Tuesday, but Cano's batting-practice session on the field convinced the team to go with its original lineup.

"He's an important bat for us," Girardi said. "Hopefully, this is not something that will linger and he's OK and we can move on. That would be a definite loss for us."

Nova throws slider with authority during session

ST. PETERSBURG -- Ivan Nova was all smiles after throwing about 20 pitches in a pregame workout on Tuesday at Tropicana Field, as the Yankees right-hander hopes to reclaim his spot in the starting rotation.

Nova has been on the disabled list since he felt discomfort in his pitching shoulder -- revealed to be inflammation by an MRI exam -- during an Aug. 21 start against the White Sox in Chicago.

"I'm going to get off of the DL when they tell me," Nova said. "Hopefully, I can feel really, really good, like I do today."

Nova said that he had a good feel for his slider during the session and that he felt as though he could throw strikes with it. Girardi said the Yankees would know more about Nova's timetable on Wednesday.

"I thought his arm strength was good, and whenever you have tendinitis, that's what you're concerned about," Girardi said.

Grandy returns, but Yanks have eye on injury

ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson returned to the club's starting lineup on Tuesday after missing two starts with tendinitis in his right hamstring.

Granderson was forced out of Saturday's game against the Orioles after feeling the hamstring bother him during an at-bat. An MRI exam taken in New York revealed no strain or tear.

"I think he's pain-free, but I still think you have to keep an eye on him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'll probably check with him a couple of times during the game to see if he's OK."

Granderson entered play on Tuesday batting .234 with a team-leading 34 home runs and 79 RBIs.

Bombers bits

• Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (strained left calf) said that he isn't quite ready to run, so a Thursday return to the lineup is overly optimistic. Teixeira is still hoping he can play this weekend against the Orioles in Baltimore and might take ground balls on Wednesday.

• Left-hander Andy Pettitte (fractured left fibula) will face hitters on Wednesday at Tropicana Field. The Yankees expect that their September schedule will not permit Pettitte to go on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment, forcing him to do all of his work under simulated conditions.

• Infielder Ramiro Pena has cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Yankees designated Pena for assignment on Saturday to create room on the 40-man roster for outfielder Chris Dickerson.

• Girardi said that he felt outfielder Ichiro Suzuki needed a day off Tuesday because "he's been going hard and he's a little beat up."

• The Yankees plan to use Eduardo Nunez only as a shortstop and not as a utility man, as they did earlier this season. Nunez focused on shortstop at Triple-A after committing four errors with New York earlier this year.

• On this date in 1993, Jim Abbott became the second Yankees left-hander to throw a no-hitter, beating the Indians, 4-0, at Yankee Stadium. It was the fourth no-hitter in Yankee Stadium history.