Yanks cautious with pitchers batting
Wang's 2008 injury a reminder of risks on basepaths
NEW YORK -- After enduring his first mediocre start of the season, Phil Hughes is eager to get back on the mound on Saturday. Getting into the batter's box for his first career at-bat, however, might be a different story.
"I'll probably be nine feet out of the batter's box," Hughes said before Friday night's Interleague opener against the Mets at Citi Field. "Once I get the first one out of the way, it'll probably be a little better."
Hughes hasn't been to the plate in six years, since he was a high schooler in Santa Ana, Calif. Even then, the right-hander said, he wasn't exactly a great hitter.
"I was a hitting third baseman; I don't know about a hard-hitting third baseman," Hughes said. "I could hit an 85-mph fastball. But if you threw a breaking ball at me, I was done."
Hughes and the Yankees' other pitchers have been taking batting practice over the past week to prepare for Interleague Play. Hughes has spent most of that time working on his bunting. When asked if he could get a sacrifice bunt down, Hughes said, "I can try."
You don't have to think too far back to remember key at-bats by Yankees pitchers. Just last year, Mariano Rivera worked out a bases-loaded walk from Francisco Rodriguez for his first career RBI -- on the night he recorded his 500th save -- and Andy Pettitte drove in a run with a bloop single in Game 3 of the World Series in Philadelphia.
At the same time, Yankees manager Joe Girardi is a little concerned about seeing his pitching staff put in unfamiliar territory at the plate and on the basepaths.
"It's not something you do on an everyday basis," Girardi said. "Even being a National League manager, you felt like it was a catch-22 with a pitcher on. You wanted the pitcher to get on, but you didn't want him having to score from first on a double and feeling like they're worn out for a few pitches in the next inning.
"That could be the difference in the game. Last year we came through great; in '08 we did not."
Girardi was, of course, alluding to Chien-Ming Wang's injury in Houston in 2008, suffered while scoring from second base on a Derek Jeter single. Wang missed the final 3 1/2 months of the season and wasn't able to regain his form in '09.
The Yankees have put their pitchers through baserunning drills more frequently since then, so Hughes' main concern remains standing in the box against his counterpart on the mound, Mets righty Mike Pelfrey.
"It should be interesting -- I'll swing hard and hope I hit something," Hughes said, adding that he hopes the six bats he ordered during Spring Training are enough. "I just hope [Pelfrey] doesn't drill me tomorrow in my first AB."
-- Tim Britton
Granderson nears rehab assignment
NEW YORK -- Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson is ready to join Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a rehab assignment as he makes his way back to the big league lineup from a left groin strain.
Granderson has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 2 with the injury, which he suffered while running the bases against the White Sox.
Granderson brought his bags with him to Citi Field on Friday, and with a flight booked out of New York's LaGuardia Airport, he is scheduled to join Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in time for Saturday's game at Louisville.
"For the most part, I'm excited to get out there," Granderson said. "Nothing really is bothering me -- as much as we can push it without a game situation, without fans in the stands. But those things feel good -- the baserunning, hitting, throwing, fielding -- all those things feel good."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Granderson would probably play in five of six games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with some designated-hitter duty mixed in.
"He's doing great," Girardi said. "Hopefully we get him sometime at the end of next week if everything goes right."
Granderson said that he expects to DH in his first game for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and then play the outfield in his second game.
"I'm excited about how everything feels," Granderson said. "From lifting to treatment, before and after, coming to the ballpark, leaving the ballpark -- all those different things feel good."
-- Bryan Hoch
Yanks have distant ties to Takahashi
NEW YORK -- Several hours before the first pitch was to be thrown in this year's Subway Series, Mets starter Hisanori Takahashi remained very much a mystery within the walls of the Yankees' clubhouse.
In fact, while two players in the starting lineup -- Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez -- actually batted against Takahashi in a 2004 exhibition at the Tokyo Dome, it seemed so long ago that the details had almost completely been wiped clean.
"Is that who we're facing? I know nothing," Jeter said. "I can't even remember who I faced two days ago."
Takahashi, 35, is a left-hander from Tokyo who will be getting his introduction to this version of the Yankees' lineup. Takahashi faced Jeter and A-Rod in that March 28, 2004, game, holding the two stars hitless in four at-bats.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that there were not a whole lot of options for his hitters to get acquainted, short of heading for the video room.
"That's about all guys can do," Girardi said. "Obviously players are more comfortable when they see a pitcher. If you're right-handed, you're going to see fastballs and changeups. You have to know that. You look to get the ball up. Guys have faced a lot of guys they've never seen before."
Outfielder Brett Gardner said that he'd dabble on the video machine, but he knew exactly what he'd be looking for in his first at-bat.
"Fastball down the middle," Gardner said. "It's the same thing as if you have faced the guy before. For me, I don't really get too involved with that stuff. I don't think it's as important for me as it is for the other guys, who people tend to be more careful with. I look for a pitch to hit no matter who's pitching and try to be ready for it."
Jeter said that his preference would just be to know what is in Takahashi's arsenal, and otherwise keep his approach simple. The Yankees' captain said that the hitch Takahashi keeps in his delivery wouldn't necessarily throw his timing off.
"Some guys may have a hitch that's easy to time," Jeter said. "I haven't seen him. Some guys may have a little pause, but it's the same pause every time. That doesn't really affect you. But him, I don't know anything about."
-- Bryan Hoch
Thames' sprained ankle improving
NEW YORK -- Marcus Thames ran and took fly balls before Friday's contest against the Mets, testing his sprained left ankle, and he could soon be available for the Yankees as a pinch-hitter.
"I took BP [on Thursday], and it's my landing foot, so I couldn't really turn like I wanted to," Thames said. "I'll try it today and see how it goes. It feels a lot better."
Thames was injured on Wednesday, when he stepped on his own bat while running out a single to left field against the Rays. As embarrassing as that freak play might have been, it was nothing compared to the feedback he heard from his mother, Veterine.
"She called me 'clumsy,'" Thames said, chuckling. "That's Mom."
With Thames unavailable on Friday, the Yankees started utility man Kevin Russo in left field, slotting him into the No. 8 spot in the starting lineup. Russo has been playing all three outfield positions at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year.
"I'm excited to play," Russo said. "I'm here to play, and hopefully I can contribute."
-- Bryan Hoch
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.