TORONTO -- Oklahoma Christian University is all set to dedicate its new indoor facility to a late Yankee who helped rebuild its baseball program.
The school announced Friday that it would dedicate the new Bobby Murcer Indoor Training Facility -- a structure that represents the last step in the program's revival -- on Sept. 23, honoring the former Yankees outfielder and broadcaster who died of brain cancer in 2008.
Murcer, a five-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, starred at Southeast High School in Oklahoma City in the early 1960s, was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, and got into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2004.
Murcer never attended Oklahoma Christian, but he and his wife attended nearby Memorial Road Church of Christ and had strong ties to many associated with the university. OC dropped baseball after the '01 season and didn't field a team again until '08. At that point, Murcer agreed to help revitalize the program.
And now, their $503,000 facility is a reflection of him.
"We felt like we needed to give honor to whom honor is due," said OC vice president of alumni relations Kent Allen, whose idea it was to name the facility after Murcer. "In the end, he had developed a keen interest in wanting to bring OC baseball back, even better than before."
The facility is 12,800 square feet, complete with batting cages, a clubhouse, a weight training area, an athletic-training area and other amenities. The lobby includes photos from Murcer's playing and broadcasting career and will soon have two seats from the old Yankee Stadium, dedicated by the Yankees.
Murcer, who passed away at age 62, spent 13 of his 17 years in the big leagues as a member of the Yankees, batting .278 with 175 homers in pinstripes. He then spent more than two decades as a broadcaster for the club, winning three Emmy Awards for live sports coverage.
A-Rod rests thumb, but encouraged
TORONTO -- The immediate news wasn't positive. Despite the expectation that Alex Rodriguez would return to the Yankees' starting lineup for the first time in a week, his nagging thumb made manager Joe Girardi believe waiting an extra day would be best. But Friday -- with the Yankees playing the series opener against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre -- wound up being what A-Rod called the most reassuring day he's had since first suffering the left thumb injury on Aug. 21.
The reason: A half-inch of athletic tape and a half-inch of separation on a bat handle.
Hitting coach Kevin Long suggested to Rodriguez that he separate his hands slightly when gripping the bat -- sort of like ballplayers did in the early 20th century, though not as drastic -- in order to keep A-Rod's top hand from constantly banging up against that ailing thumb, which had been causing him a great deal of pain lately.
Long figured a wad of rolled-up tape separating the hands would cause A-Rod's pain to subside, but he warned him it would diminish his power.
Then A-Rod took seven rounds of batting practice, hit four balls out, and came away feeling better than he has in a while.
"It's the best I've felt in over a month," said Rodriguez, who wasn't sure if it was encouraging enough to have him pinch-hit but sounded pretty sure about playing Saturday.
"I'm excited about it," he added. "I haven't been this excited in at least a month."
A-Rod hasn't played since last Friday and has only appeared in 10 games since the All-Star break -- first because of knee surgery that had him miss 38 games, then because of the thumb injury he suffered while fielding a grounder in his first game back.
Girardi said during Wednesday's series finale in Seattle that he was leaning toward A-Rod returning on Friday, but would have to see him get through batting practice before making a final determination. After A-Rod did soft tosses and tee work in the batting cages, though, Girardi had Eric Chavez playing third base and Jorge Posada serving as the designated hitter against righty Dustin McGowan.
Girardi's logic: "We just decided he's probably not going to play both of the games here [on Saturday and Sunday]," Girardi said. "So why don't we see how he feels [Saturday] after taking swings and taking a round of BP [on the field]?"
Girardi, speaking before A-Rod would come on the field to take BP live, was careful to note that A-Rod hadn't suffered any sort of setback and that it was actually an encouraging day for him. The Yankees' skipper expects to play him at third base on Saturday, and he may even play him on Sunday, too.
That remains to be seen, of course. And so does whether the adjustment pays off to the point A-Rod can be himself at the plate for the rest of the season. The Yankees are hopeful they can have a productive A-Rod by the time the postseason comes around -- but hope is really all they have right now.
"I try not to think about that, but it is a real possibility," Girardi said of not having a productive A-Rod when games matter most. "We don't know how he's going to respond when he gets in the games here and everything speeds up. It is a concern; his health is a concern. That's why we're being patient here."
Cervelli to undergo tests in New York
TORONTO -- Backup catcher Francisco Cervelli, still experiencing concussion symptoms, is expected to see a neurologist and undergo a series of impact tests in New York early next week. His return to the Yankees -- as is usually the case with concussion victims -- is still a big unknown.
"We've seen so many guys miss so much time with them, and they're still missing time," manager Joe Girardi said. "I heard [the Twins' Justin] Morneau talking about when he dove for a ball at first base, the concussion symptoms came back. You just don't know what's going to happen."
The harsh reality is that Cervelli -- a high-energy player who has built a good rapport with some of the Yankees' pitchers, especially ace CC Sabathia -- hasn't played in over a week, and less than two weeks remain in the regular season.
Cervelli's DL stint is retroactive to Sept. 9, making him eligible to return on the 24th. But because concussion symptoms can be so dangerous and unpredictable, Girardi admits he's at the point where he has to at least prepare for Cervelli not being available for the playoffs (the Yankees' magic number to clinch a spot was seven entering Friday's series opener in Toronto).
That means Jesus Montero and Austin Romine need to get further acquainted with life behind the plate in the Majors -- and quickly.
"If you're fortunate enough to get into the playoffs, conceivably Russell [Martin] could catch every game," Girardi said. "But you want [Romine and Montero] as familiar with your pitching staff as possible in case something were to happen."
In other injury news, Robinson Cano was in the lineup Friday, two days after being struck by a pitch in the right foot during the 12th inning of a 2-1 loss against the Mariners on Wednesday. X-rays on the foot came back negative, and Girardi hit Cano cleanup in the series opener against the Blue Jays on Friday.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.