Kevin Youkilis believed he could have played yesterday, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to make sure the lower-back tightness that forced Youkilis out of Saturday’s game did not turn into a bigger problem.

“I think there is a pretty decent possibility he will be a player for us [tonight],” said Girardi, who started Jayson Nix at third yesterday and did not use Youkilis as a pinch-hitter against Blue Jays lefty reliever Brett Cecil. “I was going to stay away from him.’’

“I feel good. If they need me to play, I am in,’’ Youkilis said before the 8-4 loss.

Because Tampa Bay’s turf field has an all-dirt infield, Youkilis and others believe the Tropicana Field surface is more forgiving than the spongy stuff at Rogers Centre.

* It didn’t figure Brett Gardner would get his first stolen base of the season in the same game Travis Hafner got his. But that’s what happened in the third inning.

Gardner, who stole 49 bases two years ago and is one of the fastest players in baseball, swiped second with one out in the inning. He was 0-for-2 in steal attempts in the first 16 games.

The hulking Hafner, who had nine big league steals and none since 2010, reached on a walk and stole second when Josh Johnson ignored him at first.

Down four in the ninth inning with a runner on third and two outs, the lefty-hitting Hafner saw an exaggerated infield shift that had all four infielders on the right side of second base.