NEW YORK -- Working his way back to the field, designated hitter Travis Hafner is still hopeful of returning to the Yankees before the end of the season.
Hafner, who's been on the disabled list since July 28 with a right rotator cuff strain, is working on building his strength back up before he can start baseball activity.
"I'm good. It's gotten better every day," said Hafner, who signed a one-year contract with the Yankees in February. "Basically, we'll just continue to rehab until it's strong enough."
Without Hafner, the Yankees have rotated players at DH, including Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rodriguez.
Before going on the DL, Hafner was hitting .205 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs, and had a .300 on-base percentage in 81 games. Hafner hit .318 with six home runs through the first month of the season, but fell into a slump that lasted until he was placed on the disabled list.
Through May, June and July, Hafner hit .167 in 59 games. His last home run came on June 25. Hafner experienced a sore shoulder in mid-May, but received a cortisone shot to relieve the pain at that time.
Hafner, 36, said he wasn't sure if the shoulder pain that cropped back up contributed to his lack of production at the plate. But he said the pain was at its worse in his last game on July 26.
"It was just a little sore at the start of that last game, and by the end of that game, it had gotten pretty bad," Hafner said. "Within a matter of a couple of hours, it just lost all strength. I don't know."
There's a chance Hafner could return to the team this season, though he said he'll have to go through a hitting program and will then probably play in some rehab games. He said he's going to be checked again once the Yankees return from their upcoming weekend series in Boston.
Right now, Hafner is completing only shoulder exercises. He said it'll at least be September by the time he returns, but is optimistic he'll be back on the field before the season is over.
"I don't have a very good feel," Hafner said, "but it's improving every day, so that's encouraging."
Despite results, Betances leaves 2013 debut confident
NEW YORK -- Dellin Betances struck out the Angels' Grant Green -- the first batter he faced in his 2013 season debut -- on three pitches to end the top of the eighth inning on Tuesday night. And it took him nearly 30 minutes to do it.
Rain began pouring down at Yankee Stadium just seconds after Betances pumped a 94-mph fastball past Green, bringing on a 26-minute delay that put the young reliever's season debut temporarily on hold.
"It was kind of weird, strange, because you wait for the day to come to pitch, and then that happens and you're like, 'Oh man,'" Betances said. "But it had no effect on me. I had enough time to warm up, and I felt good after that."
Betances got Green to swing at 94- and 97-mph fastballs after the delay to end the inning, and he got Angels catcher Chris Iannetta to strike out on four pitches to begin the ninth.
The 25-year old wouldn't record another out after that, though. Against the next five batters he faced, Betances gave up a single to Tommy Field, an RBI single to J.B. Shuck, a single to Kole Calhoun, a three-run home run to Mike Trout and a single to Mark Trumbo. He then walked Chris Nelson after getting a visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild and was removed from the game.
Betances ended up pitching just two-thirds of an inning on Tuesday, giving up four runs on five hits and a walk.
"The results weren't as I wanted," Betances said. "I felt like I threw a lot of strikes, but I didn't mix my pitches the way I should have, probably. I felt like I threw too many fastballs. Guys up here take advantage of that."
The outcome wasn't much better than it was when he made his Major League debut in 2011, when he gave up two runs on two hits and six walks over two appearances. After Tuesday's outing, his career ERA sits at 16.20.
But his first appearance of the 2013 season will serve as a learning experience for him, he said.
"I definitely felt more confident knowing that I could throw strikes," Betances said. "I wasn't as nervous as the first time. The first time, I was so nervous. But this time, I felt better."
• Shortstop Derek Jeter took batting practice on the field again on Wednesday. He is still scheduled to go to Tampa on Thursday to continue rehabbing his strained right calf.
• Eduardo Nunez and Alfonso Soriano combined to drive in 10 runs in the Yankees' 14-7 win over the Angels on Tuesday, marking the most combined RBIs from the top two spots in the batting order in franchise history.
• On this day in Yankee history, the Yankees retired Reggie Jackson's No. 44 (1993), and set a still-standing MLB record for most double plays turned in a game with seven (1942) in a win over the Athletics.
Chris Iseman and Josh Vitale are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.