Notes: Yanks welcome dome visit
Stable climate gives club chance to take batting practice
MINNEAPOLIS -- Perhaps no one was more enthusiastic about getting to the Metrodome than Johnny Damon, who suggested that his teammates join him for early batting practice on Monday under climate-controlled conditions.
Enjoying a reprieve from the outdoor temperatures that chilled the team's opening homestand in the Bronx, a good number of the Yankees took Damon up on the offer.
The Yankees were on the artificial turf en masse around 3 p.m. ET, taking the opportunity to work up a sweat indoors, while adjusting their eyesight to deal with the Metrodome's troublesome white ceiling.
"Most of us did a good job of getting out here early to just see the adjustment," Damon said. "We've definitely been playing in some [bad] weather. Coming inside and knowing the roof could be difficult sometimes, it's good to see a lot of people out here.
"You have to continuously look at the ball. If you take your eye off the ball, it's lost."
Yankees manager Joe Torre has said that the weather conditions in New York were a major factor in the team's 2-3 start, even though both teams had to handle the same environment.
While the conditions were likely more problematic for pitchers, who found it difficult to control the cold, powdery baseballs, hitters found their daily routines curtailed as well. The Yankees did not take outdoor batting practice on Saturday or Sunday.
"It's tough," Torre said. "The game is all about getting in a rhythm, and especially in New York with that wind blowing, it's really difficult for us. We've never been a great indoor ballclub, but as opposed to playing outside here today, I think it's a much better option."
The day when the Yankees again play outdoor baseball in Minneapolis, of course, is coming, with the Twins' new ballpark scheduled for Spring 2010 completion.
Until that time, Torre said that the prospect of putting his team on the field at the Metrodome is less daunting than it used to be, particularly with players like Damon -- who suffered a right calf strain a week ago -- hoping to protect minor injuries.
"This turf is a little different than it used to be in the old days," Torre said. "This is a little more friendly to the guys."
Racking 'em up: Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was named co-winner of the American League Player of the Week Award on Monday, sharing the honors with Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.
Rodriguez batted .381 (8-for-21) in the season's first week, leading the Majors entering play on Monday with four home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.095 slugging percentage.
Torre said he could tell from Spring Training on that something seemed different concerning Rodriguez, who batted .290 with 35 homers and 121 RBIs last season in what was considered an "off" year for the two-time AL MVP.
"I felt he looked very relaxed," Torre said. "He seemed to have a smoothness about him -- not style smooth, but it just didn't look like he was forcing anything."
The award marks the 11th time -- third as a Yankee -- that Rodriguez has been named the AL Player of the Week.
"If he just stays with that approach, God only knows what kind of year he can have," Torre said.
Welcome back: With outfielder Hideki Matsui sidelined by a strained left hamstring, Kevin Thompson rejoined the Yankees on Monday, meeting the team in Minnesota after being recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The 27-year-old Thompson batted .300 in 19 games with New York last season across three stints and projects as a reserve outfielder behind Melky Cabrera, who slots in as the Yankees' starting left fielder in Matsui's absence.
Thompson said that his experiences with the Yankees last season, plus a Spring Training in which he mingled for a full seven weeks with the Major League roster, would help him to feel acclimated.
"It's not like I've got the jitters," Thompson said. "I know what to expect. I'll be glad to go out there and just make the plays, and hopefully get some hits here and there."
Thompson said he was informed of his recall at about 5 p.m. ET, after Scranton/Wilkes-Barre saw its game against the Norfolk Tides snowed out in Moosic, Pa. Thompson said he had to go all the way to Philadelphia to board a flight that would get him to Minnesota at a decent hour, though he wasn't complaining.
"I didn't mind," Thompson said.
Finding relief: With the Yankees scheduled to have off-days on Thursday and Monday, right-hander Darrell Rasner is expected to join the club's relief corps.
The Yankees' fifth starter to open the season, Rasner started on Sunday against the Orioles and took the loss in New York's 6-4 defeat. The Yankees can now skip over Rasner in the rotation, allowing him to add an extra arm to a bullpen that tallied 23 1/3 innings in the first five games of the season.
Rasner suffered a blister on his right index finger during Sunday's start, which limited the hurler's ability to control his offspeed pitches. Torre said that he believed the cold weather had caused the blister more than any sort of recurring problem, and Rasner agreed.
While Rasner has had blisters in the past, they have normally come during hot and humid conditions, when the ball rubs repeatedly against his moist fingers. Either way, Rasner said he is undergoing treatment to toughen the skin on his finger.
"Just bad luck, I guess," Rasner said. "Nobody wants to go out and be [bad] in their first start. It's just the way it goes."
Injury update: Right-handers Jeff Karstens and Chien-Ming Wang continue to make their ways back for a projected late April return to the Majors, working out at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla.
Torre said that he spoke with Yankees vice president of player personnel Billy Connors, who reported that Wang looked fine but a little bit rough. Wang was scheduled to pitch batting practice on Monday, while Karstens would follow suit on Tuesday and attempt to pitch three innings Saturday in a rehab game.
Torre said there was no timetable for Wang's first game appearance, though it is expected that Wang will need at least two starts before returning to the Majors.
Coming up: The Yankees will play the second game of their three-game set at the Metrodome on Tuesday, sending left-hander Andy Pettitte (0-0, 4.50 ERA) to the mound following his surprise relief appearance on Sunday. The Twins will counter with right-hander Boof Bonser (0-0, 3.00 ERA), with first pitch scheduled for 8:10 p.m. ET.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.