10/08/2003 7:43 PM ET
Notes: Hammond out, Almonte in
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees decided to go back to their customary 10-pitcher postseason roster for the American League Championship Series, adding infielder Erick Almonte and dropping left-handed reliever Chris Hammond for the best-of-seven set against the Boston Red Sox.
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
Hammond, who signed a two-year, $5 million contract to replace Mike Stanton as the Yankees' left-handed setup man last winter, did not pitch in the Division Series against the Minnesota Twins, and has not appeared in a game since Sept. 26.
"I wanted the extra infielder, especially because in all likelihood, (Enrique) Wilson will play against Pedro on Saturday," said manager Joe Torre. "Once you do that, you're taking your utility guy out of action."
Hammond's role in the bullpen was unclear during the final two months of the season, after New York acquired former Reds southpaws Gabe White and Felix Heredia. Jeff Weaver, who was one of the possibilities to lose his roster spot, will serve as the Yankees' long man.
"Weaver gives us a long man, because (Jose) Contreras is more than that," Torre said. "He can do anything, so I don't want to use him up one day and then not have him available."
Hammond was effective this season, going 3-2 with one save and a 2.86 ERA in 62 appearances. Unlike most left-handed relievers, Hammond was more effective against righties (.257 average) than lefties (.292). As a result, he was rarely called upon to face lefties, and was behind Jeff Nelson in the bullpen when a tough right-hander came to the plate.
"With White and Heredia, all of a sudden he wasn't our left-hander in the bullpen," Torre said. "He was fine. I explained about wanting the extra player and needing a long man. It came down to what our needs were. Unfortunately, the bulls-eye was on his back."
Hammond appeared in 40 games before the All-Star break, and just 22 after the Midsummer Classic. Though his ERA was almost a full run lower in the second half (3.20 to 2.28), his lack of work led to a lack of sharpness.
Against the Red Sox, Hammond was 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in five appearances this season, including a disastrous outing on July 27, in which he gave up back-to-back home runs to Jason Varitek and Johnny Damon. He was not at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, suffering from the flu.
"He's not mad, he's sick," said Torre of Hammond's absence. "If we get past this round, he could be eligible for the World Series."
Almonte gives the Yankees a second backup infielder, as Enrique Wilson was the lone backup in the ALDS. Wilson may start Game 3 on Saturday, as he went 7-for-8 against Pedro Martinez this season, so Almonte would provide extra protection for Torre.
"I was a little surprised," Almonte said. "I thought they were going to go with 11 pitchers, because they have a lot of guys who can do the job besides me. I didn't think I'd be on the roster, but I'm happy."
Almonte batted .260 with one home run and 11 RBIs in 31 games this season.
"Since the time they called me up, I was hoping I'd get a chance to be in the playoffs," Almonte said. "When Joe told me yesterday, I was very excited. I've just been watching the games from the bench, but now I'll be ready for anything."
Johnny come later: Johnny Damon, who suffered a concussion in the Red Sox' ALDS clincher on Monday, will not be available in either of the first two games of the ALCS against the Yankees.
Todd Walker will bat leadoff in Game 1, leaving the Red Sox without one of their most potent weapons.
"Damon is a very unusual leadoff hitter," Torre said. "He'll swing and miss, then hit a ball down the right-field line or the left-field line. He has a very good combination of power and speed."
First things first: Just as he did in all four of the ALDS Games against Minnesota, Nick Johnson will start at first base in Game 1 of the ALCS. Jason Giambi, who served as the designated hitter in the first round, will do so again in the ALCS.
"We'll take it a day at a time," Torre said. "We talked about it yesterday, and Jason is comfortable with it."
Forgetting the past: Despite Jose Contreras' record against Boston this season, Torre is confident that the big right-hander can provide the Yankees a number of roles out of the bullpen.
Contreras appeared in two games against the Red Sox this season, starting one of them. He was 0-2 with a 24.92 ERA, allowing five runs in 1 1/3 innings on May 20 and seven runs in a three-inning start on August 29.
"He's a different pitcher," Torre said. "He's pitching with more confidence. He's had enough experience now, knowing what he can do."
Contreras and Jeff Nelson are the two short-relief righties in the Yankees' pen, though Torre didn't say which pitcher he would bring in to get out a tough right-hander -- namely Manny Ramirez or Nomar Garciaparra.
"I think Nellie is ready to do that, though I could go to either him or Contreras," Torre said. "It depends on what's going on when it happens, what inning it is and where we'll go after that."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.