ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Stewart had an audience as he ran the bases at Tropicana Field on Friday afternoon, testing the left groin strain that has kept him out of the Yankees' lineup since May 16.
Manager Joe Girardi, coaches Tony Pena and Rob Thomson and head athletic trainer Steve Donohue were all on the field as Stewart jogged from home plate to first base several times and then tried breaking from first to third.
The end result: a green light and starting nod to catch David Phelps against the Rays on Friday night.
"I was making sure I was able to round the bases and do what I need to do when I get out there," Stewart said. "But I'm not planning to run too hard. I'm planning to hit homers every time up, and then just jogging around the bases. We'll see how that goes."
Stewart said that he caught a bullpen session on Wednesday and blocked balls, so the groin strain should be healed.
"My legs are a little weak just from sitting around for the last week, not being able to use them," Stewart said. "But other than that, everything felt good and strong, so it should be good."
Nova returns from DL as long reliever
ST. PETERSBURG -- A seat in the Yankees' bullpen may not be Ivan Nova's ideal assignment, but as he acknowledged with a chuckle, it still beats riding buses in the Minor Leagues.
Nova was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Friday by the Yanks, and while they gave some thought to reinstating him to the rotation in Vidal Nuno's place, Nova will instead be asked to work as a long reliever.
"I'm not a bullpen pitcher. I've never been a bullpen guy," Nova said. "But like I've said, if that's the role they have for me right now, I've got to feel comfortable. I've got to do my best over there, too."
Right-hander Dellin Betances was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a corresponding move to make room for Nova, who was placed on the DL April 27 with an inflamed right triceps.
"Our plan is for [Nova] to be in the bullpen right now," manager Joe Girardi said. "We want to get him back on track, and we'll see if we can get him back on track that way. This is a guy with a power arm and very good stuff that has struggled, but we want to get him back on track."
Nova might have returned to start the second game of a May 13 doubleheader at Cleveland if not for a setback with a sore left oblique. He pitched four innings and threw about 60 pitches in an extended spring training game on Monday in Tampa, Fla., and said he feels fully healthy.
"I was throwing hard, I was throwing strikes," Nova said. "They were swinging at everything, so that was good. I think I threw the ball good."
Girardi said he would try to stay away from having Nova enter in the middle of an inning. Nova is 1-1 with 6.48 ERA in four starts this season, allowing 12 earned runs and 23 hits in 16 2/3 innings.
He has made four career relief appearances; three in 2010 and one in '11, when he allowed a game-winning Travis Snider hit in an April 19 loss to the Blue Jays.
"I'm not thinking like I'm going to be in the bullpen for the rest of the year," Nova said. "I know I'm going to get my chance to get back into the rotation. I've just got to battle my way out.
"I'll throw it good in the bullpen if they put me in the bullpen. I'm going to get my chance, and once I get my chance, I have to take advantage of the opportunity."
Teixeira expects rehab stint, return to Yanks soon
ST. PETERSBURG -- Mark Teixeira expects to begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment next week with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, and the Yankees first baseman believes his first big league action of the season is just around the corner.
Teixeira has not played since injuring his right wrist on March 6, but he will advance to extended spring training games this weekend at the Yanks' complex in Tampa, Fla. Teixeira is slated to join the Thunder for games on Wednesday and Thursday, and is eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on May 30.
"If it was up to me, I would have been playing weeks ago, but we really made sure there wasn't any pain," Teixeira said. "They were like, 'If it's tight, if there's any pain, you're not allowed to swing hard.' That took a long time.
"Once I got to swinging, I was letting it go. By the second or third day of swinging at full speed, I felt normal. I've been feeling great the last couple weeks."
Teixeira said he had six at-bats in a simulated game on Friday and will play in extended spring games on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. Infielder Kevin Youkilis is also expected to play in Saturday's game against a collection of Pirates Minor Leaguers.
Teixeira said that he has been taking twice as many swings left-handed as right-handed, simulating what he would normally do if playing in big league games.
"Right-handed is always ahead, no matter what," Teixeira said. "That's my natural side. It's always ahead; more bat control right-handed. But my left-handed swing feels great right now."
• Andy Pettitte (back) played catch on Friday at Tropicana Field and will throw a bullpen session on Saturday. If that goes well, Pettitte is expected to pitch a simulated game and could then be activated.
• As expected, Hiroki Kuroda (bruised right calf) had only soreness after being hit by a Manny Machado liner on Wednesday in Baltimore. Kuroda is expected to make his next turn in the rotation, which should come Tuesday against the Mets at Citi Field.
• Joba Chamberlain (left oblique) is expected to throw about 30 pitches in an extended spring training game on Saturday in Tampa, Fla.
• On this date in 1936, the Yankees set a franchise record for runs scored in a game, defeating the Athletics, 25-2, at Philadelphia's Shibe Park. Tony Lazzeri hit three homers, including two grand slams, and set a still-standing American League record with 11 RBIs.