06/06/2002 11:40 pm ET
Yanks can't wait to face Giants
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- An old-time New York rivalry will be reborn this weekend, as the Yankees welcome the San Francisco Giants to Yankee Stadium, 45 years after the Giants left the Big Apple for the Bay Area.
But the highlight of the series has nothing to do with the past, but rather the history-making slugger manning left field for the visiting team. Barry Bonds, who passed Frank Robinson for fourth place on the all-time home run list on Wednesday, will make his first career appearance at Yankee Stadium.
"I'd like to say I'm looking forward to seeing him play, but I'm really just looking forward to him taking batting practice," said Derek Jeter. "After that, I hope he doesn't do much."
Bonds' father, Bobby, played for the Yankees in 1975, but the team was playing at Shea Stadium that season while their home in the Bronx underwent renovations. Bonds is expected to serve as the Giants' designated hitter this weekend.
"It's going to be fun," Bonds said. "I've been in baseball since I was a baby. My dad played for the Yankees, but it wasn't at Yankee Stadium."
While the Yankees certainly don't want to see Bonds inch any closer to 600 home runs this weekend, some players are excited to get a first-hand look at baseball's latest and greatest phenomenon.
"That's what everyone is going to come to see -- whether he hits one," said Jason Giambi, who played against Bonds while with the A's. "It's going to be a great matchup -- one of the best pitching staffs in baseball against one of the best hitters in the game. It should be good."
New York's rainout on Thursday pushed Mike Mussina's start back to Friday, so he will be the first Yankees pitcher to face Bonds at the "House That Ruth Built." Mussina will oppose Livan Hernandez, the half-brother of Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernandez.
Saturday's starter for New York will be Ted Lilly, the second-year left-hander. Lilly, who has filled in admirably for the injured Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez, has a 2-5 record with a 3.33 ERA. San Francisco counters with Jason Schmidt.
"I've never faced him, so I really don't know what to expect. Obviously, he's doing a lot of damage," Lily said. "Maybe the pitcher has a little advantage. When a hitter has never seen a pitcher before, the pitcher has a little edge."
The New York pitchers that have faced Bonds in the past -- Mike Stanton, Sterling Hitchcock and Mike Thurman -- have not had much success against him. Stanton is the only one of the three hurlers that have faced Bonds to hold him homerless, but he hasn't faced him since he pitched for Atlanta in the early 1990s. Bonds is 3-for-10 with two doubles and five walks against Stanton.
Six-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens will take the mound on Sunday, in the most anticipated matchup of the weekend. Clemens and Bonds, a four-time NL MVP, have faced each other in college and All-Star Games, but never before in a meaningful big-league contest.
"He's dangerous. He can change the complex of the game with one swing," Clemens said. "We're seeing a lot of highlights of him lately. He's passing a lot of great ones. It's fun to watch on TV, but now that he's going to be here, we'll have to get into a mode where we're not fans watching. We'll have to attack him, see what we can do and try to win some games."
At the New York baseball writers' dinner this winter, Bonds told Torre to make sure Clemens was pitching when the Giants were in town, so he could get a chance against the Rocket. Clemens said he's looking forward to the challenge, though he's not crazy about the protective elbow brace that Bonds wears.
"Maybe I'll introduce myself pretty quick," Clemens said. "That big ol' piece of plastic he has on his elbow, we'll see if we can't make him take that off and make it even, so we don't have that thing sticking out over the strike zone."
Clemens, who will be matched up against Russ Ortiz, said he will approach Bonds like any other hitter, though he could see Lilly being a bit more careful against the single-season home run champion.
"When I first got in the league and someone like Reggie Jackson came to the plate, it kind of took me away," Clemens said. "To hear him introduced and see a guy that you've watched and admired come to the plate. In that sense, maybe Teddy could get thrown back a little. He's definitely one of the best players to play our game."
"To have any notion of possibly throwing at Yankee Stadium is pretty exciting," Ortiz said. "I've never been there. You've heard about Yankee Stadium forever so just to be able to play there, at least once in your career, you kind of have to experience it. I'm pretty excited to go there."
But Bonds isn't the only intriguing storyline in this series. There are several players that have played for the other team, including Jay Witasick, who was traded this offseason to San Francisco for John Vander Wal.
"It was a great experience for me to play there and a lot of these that have never been there, I'm sure it'll be something they'll never forget," Witasick said. "You'll know that it's had an impact on people because when we leave to go to Toronto, we'll be still talking about Yankee Stadium."
Reggie Sanders makes his first appearance at the stadium since the World Series, when he was part of the Diamondbacks team that dethroned the Yankees. Sanders, now the Giants' right fielder, said that returning to the Bronx will be special for him, even though it is with a new team.
"The last time I there was the World Series, so yeah, there’s probably going to be a lot of rekindled moments there. It’s a fun place to play," said Sanders, who is also looking forward to facing Clemens. "You always want a chance to face one of the premier guys. You’re up for the challenge, you’ve just got to scratch, battle and do what we’ve got to do to drive in runs."
Torre said he thinks the atmosphere in the Bronx will be electric, especially with new blood in the visitors' dugout.
"I think it's good for the fans that they get to see a variety of teams play us," Torre said. "Barry Bonds playing anywhere is going to draw a crowd."
Mark Feinsand covers the Yankees for MLB.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.