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Must C Clips: Posada smashes a grand slam vs. Rays

NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada dropped the bat and followed the trail of his deep drive into the right-field seats, delivering a message loud and clear to the Yankees: I'm not done yet.

Pulled from regular designated-hitter duty last week, Posada returned to the lineup in dramatic fashion on Saturday, belting a grand slam and collecting six RBIs as the Yankees rolled to a 9-2 victory over the Rays.

"It's special," Posada said. "I got an opportunity today to play. It's tough to sit around. It's not easy to be sitting here and looking at everybody playing. It's tough."

Posada had not played since being informed last Sunday at Fenway Park that the Yankees wanted to try a new direction with their DH slot, setting no clear plan for getting Posada back into action.

The 39-year-old Posada wasn't happy with the decision but insisted that he and manager Joe Girardi were on the same page, even as Eric Chavez soaked up most of the DH at-bats during the past week.

"I said to him that day in Boston that he still was going to play a role on the team -- I meant it," said Girardi. "I know he was itching to get back in there."

Girardi liked Posada's chances against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, starting him on that hunch. A sellout crowd of 47,804 seemed to approve, greeting Posada with a standing ovation for his first at-bat.

Posada ripped a two-run single in the second inning, knocked a hit in the fourth and heard the loudest roars in the fifth, when he whacked his 10th career grand slam off reliever Brandon Gomes.

"They've been so supportive -- the fans are a big reason why I love playing the game, especially here," said Posada, who finished 3-for-5. "They deserve a lot of credit. They've supported me all throughout my career. They were a big part for me today."

The grand slam came on a 2-0 fastball from Gomes, as Posada passed Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle for sixth place on the Yankees' all-time grand slams list. Bernie Williams is fifth with 11.

"That was great -- I got goosebumps in the dugout," said Phil Hughes, who pitched six good innings for the win. "It was really cool. When you saw the count 2-0, you knew he was going to do something special. It was really great for him, with all that he's gone through this year."

Derek Jeter, one of Posada's closest friends, said that he has talked to Posada to help him get through this trying season -- seemingly Posada's final one in a Yankees uniform.

"I'm extremely happy," Jeter said. "Jorge has a lot of pride. You're talking about someone that's used to playing every day for a long time. He's been working extremely hard, and he had a huge day. That's not easy to do when you haven't played for a while, to come in and be productive."

The beneficiary was Hughes, who was making his first start since tossing a rain-shortened shutout at Chicago on Aug. 2. Hughes limited Tampa Bay to two runs and four hits in six innings before leaving with a seven-run lead.

Hughes appeared to be on the bubble as the Yankees prepared to whittle their rotation down to five starters, but with the news that Freddy Garcia will miss at least Sunday's start, Hughes' rotation spot is safe for the time being.

"It'll be like normal," Hughes said. "I won't have that extra day [of rest]. I'll throw my bullpen on a normal day and prepare as though I'm pitching on a normal day."

Curtis Granderson also went deep off Hellickson as part of that five-run fifth inning, earning a share of the Major League lead with his 33rd blast of the season, tying the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista.

"He was all over the place," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Hellickson, who allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. "Nothing was working."

The homer was Granderson's fifth in five games. Mark Teixeira added a run-scoring double and Chavez picked up an RBI in the sixth off lefty Cesar Ramos.

Girardi won't commit too far down the line with Posada, but he was willing to go as far as Sunday, promising that Posada will be back in the lineup for the series finale with Tampa Bay.

"This guy is a beloved Yankee, and we all love him," Girardi said. "At times, it has been a struggle for him, but he has never stopped working. For that, I'm extremely proud of him."

There was a time when Posada could walk into Yankee Stadium, or its predecessor across the street, and be relatively confident that he'd be standing at home plate a few hours later.

That may no longer be the case, but if Posada continues making the most of the shots he is given, more chances to swing the bat can't help but be in his future.

"I'll just be prepared for that opportunity," Posada said. "From now on, I have to look at the lineup card and be ready. I haven't given up."

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