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After All-Star Break, Second-Place Yankees Fix Sights On AL East

Bartolo Colon (credit: Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Bartolo Colon (credit: Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – After seeing Derek Jeter reach the 3,000-hit plateau and Robinson Cano win the Home Run Derby in a three-day span, it’s time for the Yankees to focus on going back to the postseason.

The Yankees resume play after the All-Star break with an eight-game trip, starting with the first of four Thursday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

New York (53-35) is in second place in the AL East, one game behind Boston. Gaining a third straight playoff berth becomes its primary concern now that Jeter got his historic 3,000th hit Saturday against Tampa Bay and Cano beat Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez to win Monday’s Derby in Phoenix.

But they’ll have to start the second half without Alex Rodriguez.

“There’s no doubt we’re going to miss him, but we need to find a way,” manager Joe Girardi said. “As I’ve said several times already this year, some people are going to have to step up. Up to this point, this team has.”

The Yankees have withstood a slew of injuries, particularly to their bullpen, with Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano all on the 60-day disabled list.

“I think we’re still working on some things,” first baseman Mark Teixeira told the Yankees’ official website. “We’re not a perfect team – there are no perfect teams. I’d love to see us get completely healthy in the bullpen, but other than that, you’ve got to feel good with where we are right now.”

New York won’t be healthy on the field Thursday after A-Rod had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee Monday. He is expected to be out four to six weeks.

Eduardo Nunez, who excelled while filling in earlier for an injured Jeter, played third base the last two games with Rodriguez out. The Yankees don’t expect to miss a beat without A-Rod.

“Because we’re a veteran team, there’s really no panic in us,” Teixeira said. “We’ve had guys that have been hanging around long enough that they’ve been through ups and downs.”

New York is 5-3 against Toronto (45-47) this year and has limited the damage by major league home run leader Jose Bautista. Bautista is 7 for 26 (.269) with three homers, five RBIs and eight walks in the season series, and he’s hitting .180 in his last 16 games against New York.

The Blue Jays slugger was the major bright spot in a first half in which Toronto’s starters posted baseball’s sixth-worst ERA at 4.40. Youngsters Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek were demoted due to their struggles.

While Toronto has seen its staff endure growing pains, several veterans have bolstered New York’s rotation. That includes Bartolo Colon (6-4, 3.20 ERA), who will start Thursday.

Colon won four straight starts before losing his most recent one last Thursday against the Rays. He’s 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA in seven road outings.

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.68 ERA in two starts against the Blue Jays this year, with Bautista going 1 for 4 with a solo homer and two walks.

Toronto will counter with Jo-Jo Reyes (4-7, 4.57), who made his lone career start against New York on May 25 and yielded five runs over three innings in a 7-3 road loss.

That was the final outing of the left-hander’s 28-game winless streak as a starter. He is 4-3 with a 4.44 ERA in eight starts since.

What’s your prediction for Yankees-Blue Jays? Let us know below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)