NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi erred on the side of caution and held Nick Swisher out of the lineup for the seventh consecutive game Saturday, but it did not stop him from pinch-hitting Swisher in the ninth inning of an 8-6 loss to the Red Sox.

Girardi wants to avoid any setbacks with his right fielder, who has a strained left hip flexor, but Swisher believes he is ready to return. The Yankees lost their designated hitter Saturday when Russell Martin moved from DH to behind the plate in the ninth, so Swisher hit for the pitcher and struck out swinging against Boston closer Alfredo Aceves.

"I feel good," Swisher said. "It was nice to get back out there. It was kind of a long day. Just to be able to get one at-bat, I feel good."

Girardi said the decision to sit Swisher had nothing to do with the Yankees' comfortable lead in the American League East. Rather, he wants Swisher 100 percent, and after watching him run Friday, Girardi was not convinced of it. But he felt confident enough after Swisher took batting practice before Saturday's game at Yankee Stadium, and Swisher took his pinch at-bat as a signal that he could return to the lineup for Sunday's series finale against Boston.

"I would think so," Swisher said. "I would think if you're able to pinch-hit [after] sitting on the bench for three hours, you're able to DH, at least. We'll come back here tomorrow and see what they say."

Girardi maintains Sabathia-Stewart battery

NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants to get Russell Martin behind the plate for one of CC Sabathia's upcoming starts, but it wasn't going to be Saturday.

Martin hasn't started at catcher on the same day as the Yankees' left-handed ace since he caught Sabathia's first two games of the season. Backup catcher Chris Stewart was again be behind the plate for Sabathia's start on Saturday. Stewart clubbed a solo blast in the third, but Sabathia didn't perform as well, allowing six runs in six innings. The Yankees ended up losing, 8-6.

"At some point, I want to do it," Girardi said of pairing Martin and Sabathia before the game. "I can't tell you when I'm going to do it."

Girardi has been hesitant to use his catchers in day games after night games since the start of the second half, and Martin caught on Friday night. Before the break, Martin was in one of the worst slumps of his career, hitting .127 in the final month of the first half. While Martin is hitting just .200 (7-for-35) since the All-Star break, he does have three home runs and six RBIs. Girardi believes the improvement is due in part to avoiding duty behind the plate in day games after night games.

"It seems to work," Girardi said. "It seems to keep them both fresh. I think Russell has swung the bat better since he has come back in the second half, and maybe some of that has to do with not playing day games after night games."

Girardi said it's important that Martin catches Sabathia so the two get used to playing with each other before it becomes an issue down the road.

"You want to make sure both of them are comfortable, not just the pitcher but you want the catcher to be comfortable, too," Girardi said. "That he has a sense that he knows what CC wants to throw and they're on the same page."

Martin started at designated hitter on Saturday, though he replaced Stewart behind the plate in the ninth inning.

Chavez fights off ankle injury to log pinch at-bat

NEW YORK -- Eric Chavez pinch-hit in the seventh inning of Saturday's 8-6 loss to the Red Sox after uncertainty from Yankees manager Joe Girardi before the game that his third baseman's bruised ankle wasn't completely healed.

Chavez's right ankle swelled up after getting hit by Red Sox reliever Mark Melancon's 92-mph cutter in the eighth inning on Friday. X-rays taken on the ankle on Friday night were negative, but Girardi hadn't talked to Chavez about his condition before his pregame news conference on Saturday.

Chavez was inserted as a pinch-hitter for Jayson Nix against left-hander Matt Albers, but he popped up to lead off the inning.

With the Red Sox starting a pair of left-handers for the final two games of the series, Chavez is scheduled to sit in favor of the right-handed hitting Nix.

Bombers bits

• Girardi said he envisions Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones seeing most of their playing time at designated hitter once Nick Swisher returns to the lineup in right field and Ichiro Suzuki slides over to left.

• On this date in 1940, right fielder Charlie Keller hit three home runs in a 10-9 Yankees win against the White Sox in the first leg of a doubleheader at Comiskey Park.