Brett Gardner's return for the New York Yankees is imminent, although the outfielder will only be available as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.
Gardner suffered a bruised elbow back in April that refused to heal, forcing him to the disabled list and eventually requiring arthroscopic surgery in July that seemed like it would shut him down for the rest of the season. That wasn't the case, as Gardner will definitely be returning to the Yankees by the end of the season. However, he won't be swinging a bat: after re-injuring himself several times trying to do so in rehab stints, Gardner will be available only as a fielder and pinch runner. Joe Girardi wouldn't rule out the option of Gardner potentially landing on the team's postseason roster when he comes back.
He'll be useful in both roles: Gardner tied for the American League lead in steals last season with 49, and is a defensive improvement over Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez at this point in their careers. Gardner has become less of a necessity for the Yankees with those two in the lineup, considering the midseason addition of Ichiro Suzuki in the outfield.
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