- Newsday reports that legendary Yankee announcer Bob Sheppard will most likely not be at the new stadium’s home opener:
“His doctor said he doesn’t have the stamina yet to go back at this time, but he’s hoping sometime during the season he’ll be able to,” (his wife Mary) said from their Baldwin home. . . .
Sheppard, who is in his late 90s and has been the Yankees’ public address announcer since 1951, missed the entire 2008 season recovering from a bronchial infection.
He hoped to return for the All-Star Game and later for the last game at the old stadium but had to settle for taping the announcement of the lineup for the final game and having it played on the scoreboard.
“He’s been through a lot,” she said. “But there is no one particular problem. His weight is fine. And his voice is still excellent.”
[My take: A major bummer! Can't the Yanks rig up a live satellite feed from Sheppard's house, project the video on the scoreboard, and let him do the "Welcome to Yankee Stadium" and lineups?]
Manager Joe Girardi said he would try this out for a few days and keep it into the regular season if it works. Girardi thinks Damon, a left-handed batter who pulls the ball, is suited to batting second because he can hit behind runners. Though Jeter owns the higher career on-base percentage (.387 to .354), Damon’s was better last year (.375 to .363).
[My take: Well, Jeter often hits behind runners given how much he goes to the opposite field. But if it lowers the 24 GIDP the Captain bounced into last season, that's a plus. Also, will Jeter be attempting more steals as a result?]
- MLB.com offers some more info on the lineup swap:
It happened largely by accident, in fact. Damon had been batting second to get Jorge Posada more at-bats as he resumes catching duties, but now that Jeter has returned from the World Baseball Classic, Damon will stay there.
“We kind of liked what we saw in that situation,” Girardi said. “We’re going to play with it more here over the next week.”
Damon said Girardi showed the new lineup on Thursday morning. While Damon has said numerous times how proud he is of being a leadoff hitter and a table-setter, he said he had no problem batting second.
- CC Sabathia has been tapped to be the starting pitcher for both the season and home openers.
- Mike Bauman speaks of the weight on CC’s shoulders:
His work with Milwaukee in the second half of 2008 was the stuff of legend. Not only was he throwing superb games, complete games and shutouts, but at the end, he was regularly pitching on short rest. More than any other single player, Sabathia was responsible for Milwaukee ending its 26-year postseason drought.
The man was both a workhorse and a thoroughbred at the same time. And his timing was also impeccable. He entered free agency coming off the best work of his life. The Yankees desperately needed a top-of-the-rotation starter. This combination added up to a truly recession-proof existence for the Sabathia family.
Within baseball, Sabathia is highly regarded both personally and professionally. He is the type of personality and performer who can serve as a rallying point for the rest of the roster.
If there has been a criticism of him, it has stemmed from a positive trait. He takes responsibility. He is accountable. But the belief exists that he might take on too much responsibility for big starts, such as postseason starts. So he might, in popular parlance of the game, “try to do too much.”
- Future star Austin Jackson has a fan in a namesake:
Reggie Jackson beat the Yankees prospect Austin Jackson into the clubhouse Tuesday night, and it was hard to tell who was happier. Jackson, the youngster, pulled a full-count pitch high over the left-field foul pole for a grand slam in the eighth inning. But Jackson, the icon, paraded around the clubhouse with an equally wide smile.
“I felt like I hit one,” he said after the Yankees’ 7-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Every season, Reggie Jackson, a Yankees special adviser, gravitates to a hitter whose style he likes. Sometimes it is a veteran like David Justice. In this case, it is Jackson, 22, an eighth-round pick from 2005 who turned down a basketball scholarship to Georgia Tech to sign with the Yankees. Baseball America rated him as the organization’s top prospect coming into the season.
- Jack Curry offers a remembrance of Arthur Richman.
- Bill Sudakis turns 63 today. Sudakis was a part-time 1B/DH for the ’74 club, before getting dealt for Skip Lockwood.
I’m off this weekend . . . see you Monday.