Biggest surprise: The projected first-base platoon of Doug Mientkiewicz and Josh Phelps somehow morphed into Andy Phillips and Miguel Cairo by midseason.
Team needs: The talent is on the team. The Yankees need to figure out what they can do to tweak the relief corps, which shows signs of overuse and general ineffectiveness, but those are smaller bandages on the whole body of the club. The Yankees desperately need to challenge their run of 14 of 17 wins, and July is a perfect time to do it -- after the All-Star break, they won't see another team with a winning record until Aug. 10 at Cleveland.
• Johnny Damon -- For a while, it was another day, another malady for the banged-up Damon, who has seen his reliability improve since moving to the DH role. Damon has battled calf cramps all season, as well as a sore back and a mild abdominal strain that was eased when he had four ribs realigned during a recent Yankees off-day.
• Jason Giambi -- Giambi recently had a walking boot removed from his left foot. He had a partial tear of his plantar fascia while running out a home run at Toronto; no return date has been announced.
• Phil Hughes -- The organization's top pitching prospect suffered a strained left hamstring while pitching a no-hitter on May 1 at Texas, then rolled his left ankle while performing conditioning drills and had a severe sprain. He has resumed throwing.
• Derek Jeter -- Ice has been his friend this season, as Jeter consistently makes himself available for the lineup. A left hip flexor and knee tendinitis have been among his ailments.
• Jeff Karstens -- Karstens had his right leg fractured by a Julio Lugo comebacker on April 28 at Yankee Stadium and has resumed throwing at the club's facilities in Tampa, Fla.
• Hideki Matsui -- A strained hamstring forced him out of the lineup in the season's first homestand, but he returned on April 23 at Tampa.
• Mientkiewicz -- He was steamrolled by Boston's Mike Lowell on a play at first base at Fenway Park on June 2, suffering a concussion and a fractured right wrist. He is targeting an Aug. 1 return.
• Mike Mussina -- Moose suffered a strained left hamstring in an April 12 start at Minnesota and missed three weeks.
• Carl Pavano -- The hurler's career with the Yankees is likely over after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in early June. The club's $39.95 million investment yielded just 19 starts and six victories, including one in two starts this season.
• Jorge Posada -- The catcher has quietly been gritting through pain in his right knee that Torre periodically reports is "barking."
• Darrell Rasner -- The hurler fractured his right index finger on a ball hit back to him at Shea Stadium by the Mets' Endy Chavez. The right-hander is slated to resume throwing in early July.
He said it: "We've got a group of guys here that we have to win with. If they make changes, they make changes, but we can't sit around here and think about players who aren't here. Guys need to do the job."
Mark your calendar: Aug. 10-12 at Cleveland; Aug. 28-30 vs. Boston; Sept. 14-16 at Boston; Sept. 28-30 at Baltimore
Fearless second-half prediction: Thinking back to their string of 14 victories in 17 games in June, the Yankees have at least one more similar run left in them this season. Two runs of that nature would vault them right back into serious contention.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------