10/17/09 4:51 PM ET
Molina gets Game 2 call behind plate
Backup backstop replaces Posada with Burnett on hill
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
Rather than have regular backstop Jorge Posada catch A.J. Burnett in Saturday's Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, the Yankees elected to use backup Jose Molina, who also caught Burnett in Game 2 of the AL Division Series last week. Dating back to Sept. 7, Molina has now started behind the plate in each of Burnett's past eight starts.
Working with Molina in the ALDS, Burnett fired six innings of one-run ball, striking out six and allowing just three hits. Opposing batters hit .221 off Burnett when Molina caught him during the regular season, and .270 against him in games that Posada caught.
Using the defensive-minded Molina, however, forces the Yankees to weaken their lineup and to start either Posada or Hideki Matsui at designated hitter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi, citing the two players' brief histories against Angels pitcher Joe Saunders and Matsui's experience as a DH, chose the latter.
"One of the things we talked about from Day 1 when we came into Spring Training was that to get to where we want, sometimes you have to make some sacrifices," Girardi said. "Our players have done that all year long."
Matsui has faced Saunders just once in his career, hitting a solo home run in that at-bat. Posada has faced him five times, recording two singles and a walk. Molina has easily been the least successful of the bunch, with just one single off Saunders in six career at-bats.
But the Yankees are more interested in Molina's ability to catch and call a game, which has been particularly pronounced when catching Burnett. Posada and Burnett, meanwhile, have had more than their share of problems as a battery, most notably during a blowout loss to the Red Sox in August.
"It's tough taking Jorge out of the lineup," Girardi said. "You look at what Jorge has done in his three starts and the way our pitchers have thrown the baseball and the way he's swung the bat. It's tough to take him out of the lineup. But that combination worked well in Round 1, and I just thought I'd stay with it."
Yet Posada's absence from the starting lineup hardly means that he will not play. In Game 2 of the ALDS, for example, Posada pinch-hit for Molina in the sixth inning and took three at-bats in total, compared to just one for Molina. As long as Friday's game remains reasonably close, Posada will almost certainly hit and catch during the mid to late innings.
The rest of Girardi's Game 2 lineup is identical to the one he penciled in the last time Molina started at catcher. The top five of Derek Jeter at shortstop, Johnny Damon in left field, Mark Teixeira at first base, Alex Rodriguez at third base and Matsui at designated hitter remains intact for the fifth straight postseason game. Nick Swisher is batting sixth and playing right field, followed by Robinson Cano at second base, Melky Cabrera in center field and Molina at catcher.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.