Notes: Return to basics helps Abreu
Right fielder carries patience from injury absence into season
MINNEAPOLIS -- As Bobby Abreu mended a strained right oblique muscle and waited to return to action, he used his spring to go back to the basics, focusing on fundamentals as he was slowly permitted to do more and more.
Abreu had to express patience as the injury healed, but in the meantime, he busied himself with hours of indoor batting, tee work and baserunning drills.
Seemingly primed to contribute from his first Grapefruit League games onward, Abreu hasn't slowed. He slugged his first home run of the season against the Twins on Monday evening and has earned positive reviews from his Yankees teammates.
"You do the little things every day," Abreu said. "Every single day, I was working in the cage or hitting something, or running the bases. That's a good way for Spring Training [to go], and it's important to get ready and going to start it up."
As the Yankees' No. 3 hitter, Abreu has earned a reputation as a patient hitter who is capable of working deep counts and helping to tire pitchers.
"Abreu, to me, gives us a different personality," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "When you get men on base, it's that much tougher to pitch to the thumpers. Even the guys who are paid to knock in runs, there's always somebody playing behind them. You don't have to go outside your zone."
Abreu also provides a certain measure of advance scouting for the hitters behind him in the lineup; Alex Rodriguez has credited some of his scorching-hot start to Abreu's presence, which Rodriguez believes helps not only himself, but the entire lineup.
"You get to see 30 pitches a night before you get to hit," Rodriguez said. "There's a great residual there. It's incredible. ... It's like having an at-bat right before your at-bat."
Abreu said that the impact of the lineup goes both ways, and certainly he sees some tempting offerings with Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada batting immediately behind him.
His first home run came on Monday as part of a 3-for-5, four-RBI performance that raised his average to .348 through six games, but Abreu said he has not been surprised by a rapid start to what would be his first full year as a Yankee.
"I just worked on my swing and tried to work hard early," Abreu said. "I pretty much put the ball in play and go however they hit me. I just feel good right now."
Can't get enough: Rodriguez's home run barrage had already turned historic before he dug in Tuesday against Minnesota's Boof Bonser.
No player in Yankees history had hit five home runs in the first six games of the season, according to research performed by the Elias Sports Bureau.
"That's something, when you think back to the history of this franchise," Torre said. "That's something to be proud of."
The memorable beginning only continued when Rodriguez pounced on a three-ball, two-strike offering from Bonser in the first inning on Tuesday, depositing it deep into the left-field seats for homer No. 6 before a fan tossed it back on the field.
The numbers game: Reliever Luis Vizcaino wore No. 39 in Spring Training, but persuaded first-base coach Tony Pena to give up his No. 52 before the team headed north to New York.
Even though Pena said he doesn't expect any sort of remuneration for giving up the number -- historically, a few players have acquired cash, jewelry or other gestures of appreciation for doing so -- Vizcaino is pondering how to best reward Pena.
"I want to get him something special," Vizcaino said.
Vizcaino wore No. 52 last season for the Diamondbacks and did so with aplomb, posting a 3.58 ERA, 29 walks and 72 strikeouts in 70 appearances, spanning 65 1/3 innings.
"I had a pretty good season," Vizcaino said. "I thought I'd use it again."
For the record, Pena didn't need much convincing to cough up the uniform.
"Numbers are not a big deal," he said.
The Melky way: Torre said that outfielder Melky Cabrera's slow start -- he was 2-for-28 entering play Tuesday -- will not place his regular duty in jeopardy while Hideki Matsui serves a stint on the 15-day disabled list.
The Yankees believe that Cabrera has been pressing at the plate and would like to see him relax, but Torre has no plans to insert Kevin Thompson in Cabrera's place if the difficulties continue. He showed a good sign of coming out of the funk in the second inning on Tuesday, singling in a run facing Bonser.
And he's OK: Yankees batting practice pitcher Mitch Seone -- who was hit in the right temple with a line drive before Monday's game -- showed up at the Metrodome sporting a small swollen lump, but otherwise, he considered himself lucky.
Seone said he never saw the batted ball coming. It caught him flush on the side of the head before he was helped off the field by trainer Steve Donohue.
"It could have been a lot worse," Seone said.
Coming up: The Yankees will play the third and final game of their series with the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, with right-hander Mike Mussina (0-1, 13.50 ERA) taking the ball for New York. He'll look to improve on his first start of the year, when he lasted just four innings and allowed six runs to the Orioles.
Right-hander Ramon Ortiz (1-0, 2.57 ERA) will counter for the Twins, with first pitch at the Metrodome scheduled for 8:10 p.m. ET.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.