10/09/2003 10:03 PM ET
Hammond questions his role
NEW YORK -- Chris Hammond was baffled by the Yankees' decision to leave him off the ALCS roster, as New York opted to take reserve infielder Erick Almonte instead. Now, the left-hander is wondering whether or not the move is a sign that his tenure in pinstripes may be coming to an end.
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
Hammond signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Yankees in December, as New York tabbed him to replace Mike Stanton as the team's left-handed setup man. Coming off a season in Atlanta in which he posted a 0.95 ERA, Hammond was looking to help the Yankees get back to the World Series.
"I could accept it better if I wasn't coming back next year or my contract was up," Hammond said. "If they don't want to use me this round, I don't know what the reason is for me to be back here next year."
The bullpen underwent numerous changes this season, as the Yankees used 19 different relievers. Hammond, who, along with Antonio Osuna, started the season as a setup man, posted a solid first half, going 2-0 with one save and a 3.20 ERA before the All-Star break.
But when the Yankees acquired lefties Gabe White and Felix Heredia, Hammond dropped down the depth chart. He believes that his poor performance on July 27 in Boston, in which he gave up back-to-back home runs to Jason Varitek and Johnny Damon to blow a late lead, was the outing that put him in the doghouse. Before that outing, Hammond had not given up a home run since the first week of the 2002 season.
"The Boston game, I didn't pitch for seven days then went out and gave up two home runs," Hammond said. "From that point on, I went from being the third or fourth guy out there to the last. It's hard to swallow.
"After that Boston game, it was never the same. I went from pitching in the seventh or eighth to coming in for the fourth or fifth. I'm not the kind of guy who causes controversy, so I accepted my role, just like I will now."
Hammond finished the season 3-2 with a 2.86 ERA. Although he didn't pitch as much in the second half, Hammond did not allow a run in 14 of his final 15 appearances.
"I'm a guy who can get lefties and righties out," Hammond said. "To me, that's more important than having a righty out there. I don't understand their thinking."
Hammond is signed through next season, and he said that he plans on being back despite being left off the ALCS roster.
"I signed here for two years and I planned on pitching here for two years. If I am, I want to sit down with Joe (Torre) and talk to him about having better communication."
Torre said that there is a possibility that Hammond could be added to the roster for the World Series, should the Yankees get past the Red Sox. Hammond isn't holding his breath.
"If they don't use me this round, I don't see any reason why they'll use me next time. It's disappointing," he said. "I probably wouldn't have pitched anyway. That's how playoffs are -- you use your top four guys as much as you can. I'm not going to pull against us because I'm not in there. I want us to win, get to the World Series and see what happens then."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.