NEW YORK – Jorge Posada gave manager Joe Girardi little choice but to give him another start.
Phil Hughes also got a reprieve, though his strong outing Saturday might not have been enough on its own to prevent a possible demotion to the bullpen.
Posada hit a grand slam and drove in six runs in his first game since being benched six days ago, and Hughes made his case to remain in the New York Yankees' rotation with six effective innings in a 9-2 victory that ended the Tampa Bay Rays' five-game winning streak.
"It's special," Posada said. "I got an opportunity today to play — and it's tough to sit around. It's not easy to be sitting here and look at everybody playing."
Curtis Granderson hit his 33rd homer to tie Jose Bautista for the big league lead and Robinson Cano had two hits and scored twice to help the Yankees rebound from a loss to the Rays on Friday night.
"We didn't pitch well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That's not like us."
Getting the start at designated hitter on the day his pal Derek Jeter was honored for reaching 3,000 hits, Posada laced a bases-loaded single off Jeremy Hellickson (10-8) in the second to give New York a 2-0 lead. He singled in the fourth then hit his 10th homer and 10th career slam in the fifth off Brandon Gomes.
Posada has not played since being dropped from his regular spot as the designated hitter Sunday at Boston.
After the game, he learned that he would DH again Sunday.
"As I've said, he's still going to play a role on this team," Girardi said. "We need him."
In the final year of a four year, $52.4 million contract, Posada turns 40 on Wednesday. He is in what most likely is his last year with the Yankees, and it's been a trying one.
He took himself out of the lineup in May when he was dropped to ninth in the order then apologized to his teammates a day later. He has had difficulty adjusting to his role as a full-time DH after being the team's primary catcher for most of his 17-year career.
Posada said before the game Saturday that he wants "to do everything I can to try to stay in the lineup."
He sure came through in the clutch: Posada's run-scoring hits both came after a Rays pitcher walked two batters to load the bases.
"From now on I have to look at the lineup card and be ready," Posada said.
Hughes (3-4) is in jeopardy of being dropped from the rotation despite two consecutive solid starts. Girardi is committed to going to a five-man rotation from the temporary six starters and the two names being mentioned most for demotion were Hughes and A.J. Burnett.
But that decision will have to wait. After days of talking about the coming change, Girardi revealed postgame that Freddy Garcia cut his finger in a kitchen accident about four or five days ago and will not start Sunday.
Instead, Burnett will face the Rays.
All the starters will move up a day and Hughes will stay on a regular schedule.
Hughes has struggled this season after going 18-8 last year and earning his first All-Star trip. The 25-year-old right-hander had a 7.11 ERA coming into Saturday with a long stint on the disabled list. But he threw a rain-shortened, six-inning three-hitter in his previous start Aug. 2 and gave up four hits — one a homer to Desmond Jennings leading off the sixth — and two runs this time. Hughes walked one and struck out seven.
Hughes said he didn't think about what could happen afterward.
"It's hard enough to pitch a really good game when you have a clear conscience so I knew I couldn't let anything distract me," he said.
Mark Teixeira led off the second with a single then Hellickson lost the strike zone, walking Cano and Nick Swisher. Eric Chavez popped foul to the catcher ahead of Posada's single.
With his dad Steve Hellickson watching in the crowd, the 24-year-old rookie with a dog named Jeter pitched at an extremely deliberate pace but it did not help. New York reached base in each of the five innings he started and only once did Hellickson retire the leadoff batter. He gave up a homer to Granderson to open the fifth, and now is 3-8 in games he yields a homer as opposed to 6-0 when he doesn't.
"I'm disappointed, especially after the way we played last night," Hellickson said. "I wanted to come out, do the same thing and get another game on these guys. So, I'm definitely disappointed."
Hellickson was pulled when Cano hit a one-out double. Gomes preceded to walk his first two batters before Posada connected to right field, sending the crowd into a sustained ovation that stopped when Posada was pushed out for a curtain call.
"I'm extremely happy for him. Jorge has a lot of pride," Jeter said. "You're talking about someone who is used to playing every day for a long time. He's been working extremely hard and he had a huge day. That's not easy to do when you haven't played for a while."
Jennings hit a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall to open the sixth and Johnny Damon hit a liner that went under the glove of a diving Brett Gardner and ended up with a triple. Damon scored on Ben Zobrist's groundout.
NOTES: New York signed former Yankees RHP Scott Proctor to a minor league contract. ... Posada last had six RBIs in Sept. 2006. His career high is seven. ... Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez (knee surgery) went 0 for 3 with a walk as the DH in his second rehab start for Class-A Tampa. ... Jeter donated the batting gloves and helmet he used on July 9, the day he got his 3,00th hit, to the Hall of Fame during a pregame ceremony honoring the milestone. ... On Sunday the Rays will take the train to Boston and wear 50s-era hats.