Results tagged ‘ Marcus Thames ’

No power outage without A-Rod

One night after getting outslugged by major league home run leader Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, the team with the most home runs in the majors, the Yankees beat Toronto at its own game. They continued to show that life without Alex Rodriguez need not mean a reduction in power.

Their five home runs in Tuesday night’s 11-5 victory at the Rogers Centre equaled their season high of Aug. 14 at Kansas City, a night when A-Rod went deep three times. Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson homered that night as well, and they both did so again Tuesday night.

Mark Teixeira got the home run derby started in the third inning with a solo shot as part of a four-hit game. After a walk to Robinson Cano, Marcus Thames found the seats, followed by Posada, who matched Teixeira with four hits. Granderson cranked a three-run shot in the fifth, and Derek Jeter connected for a solo drive later that inning. Thames and Granderson had three hits apiece in the 17-hit attack.

Amid all this power, the Yankees found out that they have a new player with impressive speed in Eduardo Nunez, who started at Rodriguez’s third base position. Nunez displayed hustle twice by scooting down the first base line to avoid a double play in the second inning and got an RBI as a run scored and in beating out an infield hit in the ninth.

The Yankees are also getting younger in the rotation. Dustin Moseley kept up his solid work subbing for disabled Andy Pettitte with six sound innings (two runs, five hits, four walks, four strikeouts) to improve his record to 4-2. Ivan Nova, who showed promise with his 5 1/3-inning outing in his first major start Monday night, earned himself another one as manager Joe Girardi plans to start Nova Sunday at Chicago and skip Javier Vazquez, who is going to the bullpen.

That is a move a long time coming. Vazquez hasn’t had much of a fastball for a while and is 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA this month. Nova’s fastball was regularly in the mid 90’s, and he earned points by not backing down to Bautista in an altercation that did not result in any punches thrown yet the rookie seemed ready to go if it went that far.

Girardi also said that Phil Hughes, Wednesday night’s starter, will probably be skipped in the rotation at least once the rest of the way to keep his innings total down as a precaution. Having Moseley and Nova around for emergency starts and assuming Pettitte will be back in early September allows the Yankees to back Hughes off and have him fresh for the post-season.

And after a game like this, one has to wonder what kind of season this would have been for Teixeira if not for that .136 start in April. The 4-for-5 game pushed his batting average to a respectable .262. Tex increased his league lead in runs to 94, tied the Rangers’ Vlad Guerrero for fourth place in RBI with 91 and is fifth in home runs with 28.

HOPE Week: Mohamed Kamara, man among boys

The Yankees hopped downtown Wednesday in the continuance of their 2010 HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) by reaching out to Mohamed Kamara, a Sierra Leone native, civil war survivor and recent high school graduate.

General manager Brian Cashman, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, shortstop and captain Derek Jeter, pitcher CC Sabathia and outfielders Curtis Granderson and Marcus Thames took Kamara on a surprise tour of the New York Stock Exchange during the morning bell ringing. The Yankees then escorted Mohamed to City Hall, where the group was to meet with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Following their trip to City Hall, the Yankees accompanied Mohamed to the United Nations to participate in a photo session with His Excellency Shekou M. Touray, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations, in the Indonesian Lounge. The group took a VIP tour of the General Assembly Hall.

Mohamed Kamara was born in 1992 amid the civil war in his West African homeland of Sierra Leone. Any semblance of a normal childhood was unavailable to him. As the oldest of three brothers and two sisters with an absent father and a mother suddenly ill, Mohamed was forced to become the “man of the house” at age 9, providing for his family by foraging on his own to prevent their starvation.

When the war subsided approximately six years ago, Mohamed, who did not speak English at the time, made the difficult decision to come to the United States to join his aunt and uncle in an impoverished section of the Bronx.

Since arriving here, Mohamed has simultaneously created a life for himself and improved the lives of others.

He graduated in the top quarter of his class at Bronx Leadership Academy High School and earned a partial scholarship to Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, where he will work toward a business degree.

The past four years, he has remained the breadwinner for his family in Africa despite being a full-time Bronx high school student, working as a caddie at Montammy Golf Club in Alpine, N.J., which requires him to awake for work at 4 a.m. and spend nearly five hours a day in transit in an effort to send every last possible dollar back to Africa.

Mohamed also displays selflessness in his treatment of his peers. He became a mentor and sounding board for other African students in his school, and he founded the Sierra Leone Gentlemen, which organizes benefits at his local church to raise money for children in his homeland to attend school.

Offense and roster dwindling

Man, it sure got quiet around here. The Yankees can’t seem to score, and now they are running out of players.

They avoided a second straight shutout because Tigers closer Jose Valverde walked the yard in the ninth inning and forced in the only run the Yankees have scored since Saturday. A sensational turn at second base by Carlos Guillen with Brett Gardner crashing into his left knee completed a double play on Derek Jeter to end a game that crawled along at 3 hours, 48 minutes.

The game didn’t lack for base runners. The Tigers stranded 12 and the Yankees 9. Detroit was only 1-for10 with runners in scoring position but scored three runs on two long balls, a two-run homer in the second by Ray Raburn and a solo shot by Miguel Cabrera (No. 28) in the ninth off Joba Chamberlain, who was scored upon for the first time in 10 outings.

The Yankees were hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position and are 11-for-72 (.153) in those situations over the past eight games. They are 6-9 in August and have fallen into a first-place tie in the American League East with the Rays, who upended the Rangers and Cliff Lee Monday night with a four-run eighth inning.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Yankees finished up the game with Francisco Cervelli playing third base. They were without Lance Berkman (sprained right ankle) from the start and along the way lost Alex Rodriguez (tight left calf) and Nick Swisher (bruised right bicep). The same might be said for starting pitcher Javier Vazquez, whose lifeless limb struggled to get fastballs anywhere near 90 mph and was lucky to have yielded merely two runs in his four laborious innings, his briefest start since May 1.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi got defensive after the game about Vazquez’s lack of velocity saying when he was winning games he was throwing 88 mph. Uh, not really. Vazquez in his winning starts was getting it up to 91 on a regular basis. The word being spread is that Javy is in a dead-arm period, which affects pitchers at some point during the season. Vazquez is 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA in his past four starts, but the Yankees managed to win two of them.

With the bats silent, the Yankees cannot afford to send a pitcher to the mound with worthless stuff. They may have to consider skipping Vazquez a start and going with Sergio Mitre, who pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief of Javy and allowed no runs and one hit.

Cervelli was pressed into duty at third base because Girardi needed Marcus Thames to pinch hit for Ramiro Pena, who had replaced A-Rod. Thames could have played third, of course, but we have seen that act before. How serious the injuries to A-Rod and Swish remain to be seen.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t wait to see Tuesday night’s lineup.

Yankees encounter bullish Bullington

Let’s face it, Yankees fans, they ran into a good story Sunday. Not a good story for the Yankees, but a good story for baseball in general. How can not some side of you no matter how much you love the Yankees have a rooting interest for Bryan Bullington, who earned his first major league victory at the age of 29?

Earned is the operative word. Bullington faced only one batter over the minimum through eight innings in holding the Yankees to two singles and a walk. Marcus Thames was the player who walked with two down in the eighth as a pinch hitter and became the only Yankees runner stranded as Curtis Granderson flied out.

Bullington was perfect one out into the fifth before Robinson Cano broke the string with a ground single to right. Cano was erased when Lance Berkman grounded into a double play and had to come out of the game because of an ankle injury as he tripped over Bullington, who covered first on the DP. Brett Gardner had the Yankees’ other hit, a one-out single to left in the sixth, but he erased himself by getting throw out trying to steal second base.

The biggest disappointment was that the Yankees wasted an outstanding effort from A.J. Burnett, who gave up a first-inning run that was due in part to an errant throw from catcher Francisco Cervelli and next to nothing the rest of the way. Burnett had a muscular fastball early and by the third inning rediscovered his curve. The Yanks backed him up with three double plays but not that many hits in the righthander’s first complete game of the season.

Why was Bullington a feel-good story? The righthander is a former first overall selection in the amateur draft who has bounced around for eight years and was released by three organizations before finding a home with the Royals, ironically the organization that first showed interest in Bullington by choosing him in the first round of the draft in 1999.

Bullington, a former Mr. Baseball as an Indiana high schooler, turned down Kansas City’s offer to attend Ball State University where his father was a two-sport star in basketball and baseball who was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1984. The junior Bullington made All-America and resurfaced in the 2002 where he was taken No. 1 by the Pirates.

He ended up getting released after three straight seasons, in 2007 by the Pirates, 2008 by the Indians and 2009 by the Blue Jays. The Royals, 11 years after drafting him, signed Bullington as a free agent. He was inserted in the rotation five days ago as a substitute for injured Brian Bannister. Bullington lost but pitched well enough (three earned runs and five hits in six innings) to earn another shot.

As he took the mound against the Yankees, Bullington’s major league record was 0-7 with a 5.02 ERA. The day after a 14-hit, five-homer assault, the Yankees were again shut down by a pitcher with whom they were unfamiliar, which has been something of a pattern in recent years. The only Yankee who had ever faced Bullington before was Austin Kearns, who was not in Sunday’s lineup.

The split of the four-game series at KC left the Yankees only one game up on Tampa Bay in the American League East. They could use a few feel-good stories of their own.

What statement?

Had the Rangers pulled off a two-game sweep of the Yankees in the intense heat of Texas, we would have been inundated with reports about how the American League West leaders were making a “statement” about their status as a threat to the Yankees in the post-season. Well, the Yankees made a statement of their own Wednesday night. It was along the lines of “You stole Cliff Lee from us, and now we’ll make you pay for it.”

The Yankees really had no business winning this game. They were down 6-1 through five innings with Lee dealing in his usual fashion showing off the ability that prompted the Yankees to trade for Lee only to be trumped by Texas in getting him from Seattle.

Lee’s superb walk-to-strikeout ratio improved even more on a night when he didn’t walk anyone and struck out 11. The Yankees had 17 strikeouts for the game, including Nick Swisher four times (the platinum sombrero) and Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada three times apiece.

For all that lack of contact, the Yankees came back slowly but surely. They finally got to Lee for a run in the sixth and two in the seventh as the lefthander failed to pitch at least eight innings for the first time in 11 starts. But when relievers Darren O’Day and Darren Oliver struck out Derek Jeter and Swisher respectively to leave two runners on base in the seventh, it appeared that getting to 6-4 would be the best they could do.

For the second night in a row, however, Frank Francisco gave up a home run to the leadoff batter in the eighth. Tuesday night it was A-Rod. Wednesday night it was Marcus Thames, who turned out to be a pretty effective 3-hole hitter for two days in the absence of new daddy Mark Teixeira. In a one-run game, anything can happen and in this one it did.

One night after the Rangers got to Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, the Yankees did the same to Texas closer Neftali Feliz, who opened the door with a leadoff walk in the ninth to Lance Berkman. Brett Gardner fought off some tough pitches and battled for a single. A wild pitch by Feliz put two runners in scoring position. That brought the infield in, and Jeter exploited it with a single under second baseman Cristian Guzman’s glove to tie the score.

Next came a classic case of a reliever outsmarting himself. Alexi Oganda, throwing top-shelf gas, blew two fastballs past Thames, then decided to get cute and go breaking ball. All that did was speed up Thames’ bat. He singled for the go-ahead run. No decision for Lee. No save for Perez. No “statement” from the Rangers.

What are the odds of Rivera losing two games in a row? It might have happened. Elvis Andrus led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple. Other closers may think, “OK, let’s keep it to one run and take our chances in extra innings.”

Not Mo. He continued to pitch aggressively in the strike zone and worked out of trouble without Andrus advancing.

Rivera got a huge out with thanks to Austin Kearns, who had just shifted from left field to right field and made a snow-cone grab of a diving liner by Michael Young. Mo kept the ball in the infield after that on grounders by Josh Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero.

The game featured major contributions from the three players the Yankees picked up at the trade deadline. Berkman doubled in a run and got that big walk to start the ninth-inning rally. Kearns singled and scored in the seventh and made that lead-saving grab. Kerry Wood pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth innings and earned his first winning decision for the Yankees.  

Not like post-season for Mo

Tuesday night’s game in Arlington, Texas, lived up to its billing as a showdown between division leaders and possible playoff foes. The Rangers showed why they are running away with the American League West with an extra-inning victory over the Yankees, whose lead in the AL East shrunk to half a game.

The Yankees’ scoreless string of 16 innings by their bullpen over the past week was ended surprisingly by Mariano Rivera, who thrives in the post-season atmosphere but gave up the winning run in the 10th. Texas loaded the bases on two singles and a one-out intentional walk. Rivera fell behind 3-0 in the count to David Murphy, who singled off a 3-2 cutter for the walk-off hit.

Rangers manager Ron Washington emptied his bullpen, using five relievers, all but one getting the job done. Alex Rodriguez nailed Frank Francisco for his 601st home run in the eighth to tie the score. The difference in the game may have been the way the teams ran the bases. The Yankees were somewhat tentative on one play. The Rangers’ aggressiveness on another play had dire consequences for the Yankees.

Rodriguez, who had a really nice game, pulled off the Yankees’ best move on the bases in the fourth when on the front end of a double-steal attempt threw his body into the left arm of Texas third baseman Michael Young and dislodged the ball from his glove. Young was charged with an error, and the Yankees had runners on second and third with one out, but they failed to capitalize as Lance Berkman struck out and Francisco Cervelli flied out. The Berkman at-bat was a killer because the Rangers were conceding a run by playing the infield back, but Berkman failed to make contact.

A.J. Burnett showed no ill effects of back spasms that pushed back his start and pitched seven serviceable innings. He gave up a run in the fourth on a two-out double by Nelson Cruz, but the Yankees came back with a two-out double of their own off C.J. Wilson in the fifth by Nick Swisher. Marcus Thames followed with a single to left, but Swisher was thrown out at the plate on a strong throw by Murphy, who was all over this game. Benjie Molina made a fine scoop of the short-hop throw and tagged out Swisher, who chose not to slam into the catcher but tried to vault over him, which didn’t work.

The Yankees regained the lead in the sixth but failed to pad it by stranding two runners. In the bottom half, Burnett made his only real mistake in the game, a first-pitch fastball to Murphy, who crushed it for a two-run home run. The Yankees’ failure to turn a double play on a ground ball by Vlad Guerrero gave Murphy the opportunity to bat with two outs. Credit Josh Hamilton with a hard, professional slide into second base that caused Derek Jeter to throw wildly past first base losing the DP.

Robinson Cano, who did not start because of a cold but stayed in the game after pinch hitting in the sixth, led off the ninth with a single. Jeter showed bunt on the first pitch from Neftali Feliz that caught the outside corner for a strike. He took another fastball for a ball. Then the Yankees took off the bunt. Swinging away, Jeter grounded into a double play.

After Rivera gave up singles to Young and Hamilton at the start of the 10th, Rodriguez made a dazzling play in snuffing a hard grounder by Guerrero and firing to first for the out. It appeared to be a game saver, but Mo could match the histrionics of his teammate.

Not a post-season lineup

The two-game series between the Yankees and the Rangers in Arlington, Texas, is being billed as a matchup of potential playoff opponents. Let’s hope for the Yankees’ sake that come post-season time they can put together a more imposing lineup that the one Tuesday night.

Circumstances sort of tied manager Joe Girardi’s hands in making out his batting order. Mark Teixeira was not available having become a father for the third time earlier in the day. Congratulations to Mark and his wife Leigh and good health to William Charles Teixeira. Health was an issue with Robinson Cano, who came up with a cold and was running a fever. Jorge Posada had some shoulder soreness after catching three straight games, and Girardi wanted to keep him from behind the plate in the 100-degree Texas heat.

So the manager was without three of the best switch hitters in baseball. Lance Berkman, who had been among the game’s top switch hitters until this year, was forced into the lineup at first base against Texas lefthander C.J. Wilson despite his batting under .200 against lefties. Berkman had a chance early in the game to thrust the Yankees into the lead. With runners at second and third with one out and the Rangers playing the infield back in the fourth inning, all Berkman had to do was make contact to get a run in, but he struck out.

Curtis Granderson’s .208 batting average against lefties kept him on the bench. Brett Gardner moved to center field with Austin Kearns playing left. Designated hitter Marcus Thames was in the 3-hole, which had been occupied solely by Teixeira all season. Even when Tex was struggling back in April, Girardi kept him batting third until he broke out of his slump, which he eventually did. Teixeira is not likely to rejoin the club until Thursday night when the Yankees move on to Kansas City where they could get away with a lineup like this.

Yanks drop to second best

Maybe Joe Girardi should re-think that lineup against left-handed pitching that he unveiled Tuesday night. Although Girardi said nothing about the order was written in stone, there’s a good chance this will be the way the Yankees set up when the opposing starter is a lefty.

There was no change in the first five spots. Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano were in their proper places. After that, things look much different.

Marcus Thames was the designated hitter batting sixth and not Lance Berkman, a switch hitter who has been a feeble hitter this year against lefties (.188). Austin Kearns started in left field batting seventh, pushing Brett Gardner, the 9-hole hitter, from left to center. Out of the picture was center fielder Curtis Granderson, a .214 hitter against lefthanders.

Francisco Cervelli, batting .313 against lefties as opposed to .228 off righties, was the catcher batting eighth. Except for Jorge Posada, who batted for Cervelli in the eighth inning and stayed in the game, perhaps working into the mix, this is likely to be the Yanks’ lineup against lefties much of the rest of the way.

Girardi says he likes to pick his spots about when to rest players, and Granderson and Berkman can be expected to sit when lefthanders start against the Yankees.

Not even Murderers Row would have done anything against the Blue Jays’ Ricky Romero, who was nothing short of brilliant in an 8-2 Toronto victory that knocked the Yankees out of first place in the American League East for the first time since June 12.

The Yankees actually had a 2-0 lead in this one, courtesy of Teixeira’s 23rd home run in the first inning. After that, the Yankees managed one hit, an infield single by Thames leading off the fifth, the rest of the way. Rodriguez was 0-for-3 as the quest for 600 continues. He was left in the on-deck circle when Teixeira made the final out.

Yankees bench coach Tony Pena may have had a word or two with Cervelli in the fifth after the catcher threw wildly over first base on a pickoff attempt that allowed Jose Bautista to get all the way to third base. No damage was done because Vernon Wells flied to center for the third out.

In his catching days, Pena was one of the best in the business at trapping runners off base, often throwing while his rump was on the ground. His quick release gave many runners pause about taking too big a lead. Cervelli did not get a good grip on the ball and should not have let it go. Had someone like Ichiro Suzuki or Carl Crawford been on base, they might have made it all the way around the bases to score.

Dustin Moseley looked as if he might make the early lead hold up until the fourth when with two out he struck Aaron Hill with a pitch. That opened the door to a run-scoring double by John Buck and a two-run home run by Travis Snider, one of four jacks in the game for the Jays, who lead the majors with 167. Moseley gave up a second home run in the eighth, and the Jays also unloaded on Sergio Mitre and Kerry Wood.

Romero didn’t need all that artillery, as it turned out. Except for Teixeira, the Yankees all turned into A-Rod, who is deep in the weeds with this slump that has stretched to 17 at-bats without a hit and 46 without a home run. Girardi gave him a blow Sunday, a move that was criticized in many circles, and it would be hard to sit him down now that the team is home with 46,000-plus fans showing up every night ready to record history with their cameras.

In the meantime, the team is descending in the standings and is barely above the .500 level (10-8) since the All-Star break. The Red Sox, five games behind the Yankees, will arrive Friday night for a four-game series, making it seem like the walls are closing in around Yankee Stadium.

“No one ever said this was going to be easy,” Girardi said. “We’re in a tough division.”

And right now a tough spot as well.

All even in AL East

A.J. Burnett sort of reached back to June Monday night and put the Yankees in a swoon. You remember A.J. in June, the 0-5, 11.35 ERA A.J. That guy seemed to go away in July (3-1, 2.00 ERA), but in his first start of August he went back in time instead of forward.

With no feel for his breaking ball, Burnett tried to get by with his fastball that flattened out in the fifth inning that became a nightmare for the righthander. The Blue Jays combined a jolting home run by Edwin Encarnacion and an American League record-tying six doubles to put up seven runs and drive Burnett from the game.

The bullpen did a splendid job as Sergio Mitre, David Robertson, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain teamed for 4 1/3 scoreless innings, but the hole Burnett dug for the Yankees was too great to overcome.

Not that they didn’t try. Mark Teixeira clubbed a two-run home run, and Lance Berkman got his first RBI with the Yankees on a single. And it was good to see Nick Swisher back in the 2-hole where he homered in the first inning to give Burnett a 2-0 lead and got a second homer in the ninth that still left the Yankees two runs shy. Swisher’s home run also guaranteed a fifth at-bat for Alex Rodriguez going for career home run No. 600, but he grounded out to extend his hitless string to 14 at-bats and homerless stretch to 43 at-bats.

Swisher had been moved to sixth in the order the previous two games as Yankees manager Joe Girardi had Berkman in the 2-hole. I guess the Yankees see Berkman the same way they saw Nick Johnson. Give me the other Nick batting second. In that spot, Swisher is hitting .296 with 14 home runs and 38 RBI in 213 at-bats. If it ain’t broke. . .

Berkman batted seventh in the order in his first home game at Yankee Stadium (he was there with the Astros in June) and got a mixed reaction from the crowd, sort of a New York show-us-what-you-got kind of thing. He didn’t show much until the sixth when he drilled a single to center to score a run.

Curtis Granderson was due to bat next, but with left-handed reliever Scott Downs on the mound Girardi went with righty-swinging Marcus Thames as a pinch hitter. He came through with a hit. Girardi also had newcomer Austin Kearns bat for Brett Gardner. That didn’t work out as well as Kearns was called out on strikes. The inning was an eye-opener to Yankees fans, not to mention Granderson and Gardner.

The Yankees knew when they left Florida’s gulf coast that they had a race on their hands, and the Rays’ ending Minnesota’s eight-game winning streak pushed them into a tie for first in the American League East. It is the first time since June 19 that the Yankees are not atop the division alone. They had been tied for first the six days before that. The Yankees have lost four games in the standings since July 23, the day after A-Rod hit home run No. 599.

I would call that a connection. What this team needs is to get that home run over with; the pursuit of 600 has become a distinct distraction.

Newcomers spur changes

The look of the Yankees will be altered somewhat by the player transactions of Friday night and Saturday. The additions did not figure in the Yankees’ 5-4 victory over the Rays Saturday night at Tropicana Field that was yet another tight, well-played game between the teams with the two best records in the majors. It ensured that the Yankees with a two-game lead will be in first place in the American League East when they leave St. Pete after Sunday’s series finale.

The trades were designed to improve the club, of course. Some are good, and some may not be. I won’t mind being proved wrong, but it will take major turnarounds from Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood to do so. The Yankees are gambling on that, and considering what they surrendered in both deals the risks were worth taking.

Let’s get the big plus out of the way. Austin Kearns is a fine addition, a real pro. The Yankees have lacked a quality fourth outfielder. Kearns fits the bill. This is not to disparage Marcus Thames, a fine hitter, but he is a liability in the field. The right-handed Kearns give Yankees manager Joe Girardi an option against left-handed pitching, which may affect the playing time of center fielder Curtis Granderson, who struggles against lefties (.214). Brett Gardner, a .266 hitter against lefties, might move to center on those occasions to open up left field for Kearns.

Berkman had big years in Houston, but 2009 was not one of them. The switch-hitter has been especially vulnerable against left-handed pitching, batting .188 from the right side. He made his Yankees debut as the designated hitter batting second, essentially the Nick Johnson role that took them half a season to fill after Johnson went on the disabled list, obviously for good, else why the move for Berkman? Therein lies the question, what was wrong with Nick Swisher in the 2-hole?

After toying with several options, including leading off Gardner and dropping Derek Jeter one spot, Girardi settled on Swisher, who in 50 games batting second hit .293 with 14 doubles, 1 triple, 12 home runs and 35 RBI in 208 at-bats. No one else came close to those numbers. Batting sixth Saturday night, Swisher struck out three times but also hit a game-tying home run in the seventh, a huge hit.

The other issue with Berkman as the full-time DH is that it locks up a position that can be an aid for a manager with some aging players. The Yankees have a 38-year-old catcher in Jorge Posada, a 36-year-old shortstop in Jeter and a 35-year-old third baseman with a surgical hip in Alex Rodriguez. Having each DH, say, once a week gives them a break from the field. If Berkman’s numbers against lefties remain anemic, Girardi could choose among Posada, Thames and Kearns, but that jeopardizes DH ABs for Jeter and A-Rod.

Is Wood that much of an upgrade over Chan Ho Park? I’m not sure, except for pedigree. Wood is a former Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winner who tied fellow Texan Roger Clemens’ record of 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game, but that was more than a decade ago.

No one would have relied on Park to be a regular closer as the Indians did Wood, but he was dreadful with a 1-4 record and 6.30 ERA to go with eight saves. The Yankees won’t use Wood as a closer, either, but will try to work him into the eighth-inning mix that has been a vacuum because of Joba Chamberlain’s inconsistency. Wood may find more competition for that role from David Robertson, who pitched a perfect eighth with two strikeouts.

One player unaffected by all this is Robinson Cano, whose ninth-inning home run off Rays closer Rafael Soriano created the final score. Cano, who also doubled twice, can be found at second base and in the 5-hole of the batting order game after game. No transaction can improve on that. It’s a good look.

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