By Jon Lane
A picturesque day here at Yankee Stadium for the first of two workouts as the Yankees prepare for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Friday night against the Angels. Of course, as timing has it, rain is in the forecast for Friday and Saturday night, the scheduled dates for Games 1 and 2, which means the best-laid plans of Joe Girardi and his crew will be altered if there’s a rainout.
Judging from yesterday’s comments, Girardi is seriously considering going with a three-man rotation in the LCS, which lines up CC Sabathia to start Games 1 and 4 and if needed Game 7. But if there’s a rainout the teams lose an off day, and Girardi will have to decide on starting Chad Gaudin in Game 4 in Southern California or pulling Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen.
Chamberlain and Gaudin provided their takes on the potential situation, and how each are staying prepared. Chamberlain said “As of 12:42 on Wednesday, that’s where I’m at. We’ll just approach it from there.”
Gaudin added, “The only thing I know right now is be ready Friday. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ll get ready to pitch on Friday. When they tell me otherwise, I’ll be ready to go. I can’t control it, can’t change it. I have to keep it simple as I can.
“I don’t in go pitching as a starter or reliever, I go in pitching trying to get outs each time. If it happens to be seven innings, it’s seven innings. If it’s two innings, it’s two innings.”
Jose Molina and Mark Teixeira shared their experiences from playing with an Angels team that’s been an annual contender since Molina was there in 2002 and become a World Champion. I’ll have more on this in my ALCS preview to run on Thursday.
Johnny Damon also reported on day after taking optional batting practice. Damon went 1-for-12 in the Division Series, including no hits in his last 10 at-bats with four strikeouts in Sunday’s clincher. Girardi said yesterday that Damon remains his everyday left-fielder and Damon knows it’ll be time to turn it around.
“I just wanted to get some work in,” Damon said. “There are so many days off during this time of year it’s better me coming in instead of sitting around the house.”
“It’s very easy to put it behind you when you win three games to nothing. The fact that we won the series and a few of us really didn’t contribute too much. For us to continue to be successful, we need to continue to pitch like we did, but also we need to get my bat going as well as a couple of other guys.”
Damon is well aware that one or two good swings can get him back on the beam. His postseason average bottomed out at .056 in 2004 before he went 5-for-11 with three runs scored, six RBIs and two home runs (the last a grand slam off Javier Vazquez) in Games 6 & 7 as the Red Sox completed a comeback from down 0-3. In the World Series Damon went 6-for-21 (.286) to help Boston to its first World Championship in 86 years.
“That’s why I’m not going to beat myself up over what happened in Game 3,” Damon said. “I felt like I had a chance every time I stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but my teammates picked me up and they helped us get a big win and helped us get to this part.”
Back with much more later.
3:33 p.m. As expected, no decisions regarding the ALCS roster or even a Game 1 lineup. Girardi and his staff met this morning to discuss various scenarios, including matchups and the bad weather in the forecast beginning Thursday afternoon. For that reason, the Yankees moved up their workout to Thursday morning.
“We still have a couple of days,” Girardi said. “We still have some things we want to look at. We still have a good 48 hours before it’s game time.”
The Angels worked out today in Anaheim, are flying to New York tonight and will also work out tomorrow at Yankee Stadium. John Lackey is expected to oppose CC Sabathia in Game 1.
Girardi isn’t concerned about the slumping Damon, among the hitters who showed up at the Stadium on Tuesday for extra batting practice.
“He had great at-bats yesterday,” Girardi said. “I know it’s not a real-game situation, but it’s as close as you’re can get without playing games. All hitters have gone through times they haven’t gotten hits. There was a thing about was Derek Jeter pressing when he was around Lou Gehrig’s record. I feel really good about Johnny this time of year because Johnny has played this time of year and has played at a very high level.”
“It might be just what they needed,” Girardi added on the extra days of rest earned by the Yankees’ sweep of the Twins. “The four days off might help them, and then if they don’t swing the bat well then someone says the rest didn’t. You really don’t know until you get into it.”
Like Damon, Nick Swisher had trouble against Twins pitching, batting 1-for-12 with four strikeouts in the Division Series.
“I thought for me two days off was too much,” Swisher said. “Right now the body doesn’t really need to rest that much because every time you take the field in front of this crowd in the postseason, it takes everything away.”
That’s it for blogging today. Tonight I’ll have a feature on how the Yankees’ homegrown youngsters and a veteran like Jerry Hairston Jr. have adopted to the organization’s philosophy of winning, and how it’s taken their games to new levels.