Notes: Britton's chance arrives
Injuries to starters make room for offseason acquisition
OAKLAND -- Chris Britton walked into the Yankees' clubhouse on Sunday at McAfee Coliseum carrying a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre equipment bag, tagged with commercial airline baggage tickets.
It was the culmination of a lengthy trip to bolster a bullpen that has grown tired over the course of two extra-inning games in Oakland, spanning 24 innings.
Britton was recalled from the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate and activated for Sunday's contest when pitchers Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano were both placed on the disabled list. He had recorded two saves in three relief appearances while at Triple-A.
"I was doing all right, getting the lay of the land there," Britton said. "I think I'm starting to get back to my regular shape instead of the mess that I had during Spring Training."
Britton, a 24-year-old right-hander acquired from the Orioles in a November trade of pitcher Jaret Wright, made 52 appearances last season for Baltimore but struggled in his first spring as a Yankee. Britton went 1-1 with an 11.12 ERA in eight appearances, allowing seven earned runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Britton said he probably needed more time to straighten out his performance issues, admitting that he wasn't ready to break camp with the Yankees.
"It's just one of those things," Britton said. "I had a bad spring, and everybody's human."
Britton said he was informed of his recall during Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's game on Saturday at Providence, R.I. The move would involve a cross-country trek, with another on hand after Sunday's game, but it was welcome news.
"Of course I was surprised," Britton said. "We were in the middle of the game, and they called down [to the bullpen] and said, 'Bring your stuff.'"
So Britton packed and boarded a flight, but due to inclement weather conditions in the Northeast United States, he was forced to spent the evening in Toronto -- luckily, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster had been carrying their passports in anticipation of an upcoming trip to Ottawa.
Britton said he received a 4:30 a.m. ET wakeup call and flew to Oakland, where he was available for use in the Yankees' contest. Afterward, it'll be back to the East Coast, as the Yankees open a three-game series on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.
"He took a little bit of a circuitous route to get here," manager Joe Torre said.
Back in there: Doug Mientkiewicz returned to the Yankees' lineup on Sunday, one game after he was rested in favor of the right-handed-batting Josh Phelps.
Torre reasoned that Oakland starter Rich Harden is known to be especially tough on righties. Mientkiewicz extended his hitting slump to 0-for-24 when he flew out to right against Harden in the third inning, but he finally cracked through with a sixth-inning single.
Mientkiewicz was in a new spot, though, yielding his No. 8 hole to Melky Cabrera and moving down to ninth.
Torre pointed to Cabrera's run-scoring single in the fifth inning on Saturday as good evidence that the 22-year-old outfielder may be shaking his tendency to pull the ball too much; Cabrera went the other way to left against right-hander Joe Blanton.
"He's still tempted to get a little long with his swing," Torre said. "But the at-bat we needed him to have that at-bat was big for us, that he took it to the opposite field. Hopefully, things like that will help him stay within himself."
Looking on: Torre conducted his morning cardio workout watching a live feed of the contest between the Blue Jays and the Tigers, and -- even with a No. 42 Yankees jersey awaiting his use later in the afternoon -- Torre couldn't help but reflect upon Jackie Robinson as he watched numerous players pay tribute to the barrier-breaking legend.
"It's a name I remember and a person I grew up watching," Torre said. "This man stood out because of the quality of the game he played. It makes you pause and reflect, which is what I think today should be about."
Injury update: Hideki Matsui continues to be on track for activation on April 23, the first day he would be eligible to rejoin the Yankees after suffering a strained left hamstring on April 7.
Matsui has resumed a number of baseball activities, shagging fly balls on Sunday, and he's expected to be sent to the Yankees' Legends Field complex in Tampa, Fla., as the team returns to New York. From there, it's a one-week wait to pop back in on the Yankees at Tropicana Field for the opener of an abbreviated two-game set against the Devil Rays.
"My guess is that he'll be down there and we'll pick him up as we go down for the series," Torre said.
Coming up: Following an off-day Monday, the Yankees will be back in New York to open a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday evening. The Yankees' starter has not yet been announced, but the Indians plan to pitch right-hander Jake Westbrook (0-1, 7.36 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 ET.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.