Notes: Company impresses A-Rod
Third baseman among Yanks legends upon reaching 150 RBIs
ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Rodriguez has spent most of his season ignoring milestones passed, preferring instead to keep his eyes set on the Yankees' attempt at a World Series championship.
After Tuesday's game, however, A-Rod let his guard down a little bit. Rodriguez's grand slam in the Yankees' 7-6 loss to the Devil Rays made him just the fourth player in club history to reach the 150-RBI plateau, an achievement that he said made him "pretty giddy."
The achievement was a new one for Rodriguez, who leads the Major Leagues with 53 home runs. But hearing the other three names to reach 150 RBIs on the franchise's list -- Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio -- reinforced the special feeling.
"That psyches me up to even be mentioned in the same breath," Rodriguez said. "It's hard to compare eras, but ... that gives me the chills more than anything. Modern baseball is cool, but we all know each other. It's not like those names -- those are like angels.
"It's something that I'll definitely cherish for the rest of my career. It's hard to do, because the home run is an individual thing and a glamorous thing, but the RBIs and runs scored are more involved with winning, more involved with teammates and more of a team effort."
Rodriguez's third grand slam of the season was a momentous one, clipping the second row of catwalks ringing Tropicana Field, an estimated 115 feet above the playing field.
The shot, off Tampa Bay's Jason Hammel, snapped a string of 55 homerless at-bats for Rodriguez and -- he believed at the time -- would give New York enough juice to clinch its 13th consecutive playoff appearance.
But A-Rod insisted that home runs are never a huge barometer of how he feels; often more concerned with low line drives and hard ground balls, Rodriguez has worked with hitting coach Kevin Long to refine his swing mechanics for the playoffs.
"Remember, home runs are not what's going to win in October," Rodriguez said. "It's going to be doing the little things -- hitting the ball hard, going the other way, taking your walks. It's playing the little game, for me, and all of us."
Meeting with The Boss: Yankees manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman had lunch on Wednesday with principal owner George Steinbrenner at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla., discussing the makeup of the current roster and looking ahead to the playoffs.
Torre said that Steinbrenner was enthused when talking about all of the young pitching that the organization has developed and continues to develop. Steinbrenner's sons, Hank and Hal, and son-in-law Felix Lopez were also in attendance.
"We were just talking about the team, basically," said Torre, who called it a "productive meeting."
When Torre asked how Steinbrenner was doing, the owner's reply was a tongue-in-cheek "not so good," a reference to Tuesday's 10-inning loss.
When he said that, Torre said, "I knew he was fine."
Rocket grounded: Roger Clemens will remain behind in Florida when the Yankees move on to Baltimore after Thursday's game, and he may not rejoin the club until the playoffs begin.
Cashman said that the organization sees no reason to bring Clemens to Baltimore when he can complete all the work he needs to -- including throwing a simulated game, at some point -- at the club's facilities in Tampa.
Trying to get past a tweaked left hamstring, Clemens worked out at Legends Field earlier in the week and tossed in the Tropicana Field outfield on Wednesday, though he has not attempted to throw off a mound since.
Torre said that Clemens has been advised to rest his leg for a few days but is "confident" that the 45-year-old right-hander will be able to answer the bell when the playoffs begin.
"He has a plan on the work he needs to do in order to be ready to pitch," Torre said.
Take a seat: Hideki Matsui has seen better stretches this season, and the Yankees are hoping to reconstruct his swing over the next five games. The first step was resting Matsui for Wednesday's game, one night after he went 0-for-3 with two walks. He has five hits in his last 16 at-bats.
"The bottom half of his body is going one way, and the top half is going the other," Torre said. "He just needs to get that feel back."
There was also an ulterior motive for Torre, who started Shelley Duncan as the designated hitter after the rookie sat for four games. Duncan has a chance to make the postseason roster, but Torre said he wanted to see him get more at-bats against left-handed pitching, a possible primary assignment in October. The Devil Rays cooperated, starting southpaw J.P. Howell.
Something to like: Rookie Ross Ohlendorf has been pitching only in relief for a few weeks, but he has given the Yankees plenty to look fondly on, with a diving sinker and improving slider out of the bullpen.
Ohlendorf has made four appearances for New York, allowing one run and one hit in 3 2/3 innings while walking one and striking out six. As Torre continues to ponder which members will comprise his October bullpen, auditioning players when game situations permit, Ohlendorf has popped up as an unlikely candidate.
"There's definitely a shot at this point," Torre said. "Everything I sense with him as far as just [emotions] seems to be fine. He doesn't seem to be out of his element."
Bombers bits: Wil Nieves, who made the Opening Day roster as a backup catcher, has been working out in Tampa just in case the Yankees need a catcher in an emergency option during the playoffs. Nieves said that he can become a Minor League free agent Oct. 1 but will delay his decision to see if the Yankees need his help. ... Right-hander Ian Kennedy, sidelined with a muscle strain in his upper back, threw off flat ground on Wednesday but is not expected to pitch until possibly the playoffs. ... Going into Wednesday's game, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera had allowed two earned runs in 26 September innings, posting a 0.69 ERA. Other Yankees relievers had allowed 56 earned runs in 57 1/3 innings, an 8.79 ERA.
Coming up: The Yankees will wrap up their three-game series with the Devil Rays on Thursday, sending right-hander Phil Hughes (4-3, 4.80 ERA) to the mound opposite left-hander Scott Kazmir (13-9, 3.54 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET on the YES Network.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.