Heavy bat lights fire under Swisher
Home run may make 34-ounce bat a staple for slugger
ST. PETERSBURG -- It wasn't exactly Roy Hobbs digging in with his Wonderboy bat, but Nick Swisher figured out a little trick that helped him belt his first home run of the season in the Yankees' 7-3 victory over the Rays on Sunday.
Noticing that he seemed to be in front of everything his first three at-bats against Rays pitching, Swisher shunned his regular 31-ounce bat in favor of some heavier lumber, pulling a 34-ouncer out of the bat rack.
Swisher said that it was the first time in his career he had ever used a bat of that weight, but after helping him line up a 78-mph Andy Sonnanstine slider and belt it into the right-field seats, it might become a regular addition to his tool chest.
"It just kind of slowed me down that extra tick," Swisher said. "When you've got a guy like Sonnanstine who really moves the ball, nothing he throws is straight.
"I hadn't hit a ball fair all day, and the last at-bat I was just trying to be as smooth as I could. Maybe I should do that a little more often."
Swisher said that he has been using the heavier bat during batting practice, having "stolen the idea" from Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.
"Those guys swing heavy bats during BP and all offseason," Swisher said. "I do that as well during the offseason, but I've never done it during the season. It's kind of nice.
"When you swing a heavy bat, you swing it so much, when you get that lighter bat in your hand you get a feeling of dominance. It feels like a toothpick."
A day later, Girardi confirms thinking on CC
ST. PETERSBURG -- Maybe CC Sabathia would have found some magic words to change Joe Girardi's mind in the dugout Saturday at Tropicana Field, begging for a chance to complete what would have been his first career no-hitter.
But as Girardi sat on the same bench where he watched Kelly Shoppach shatter that dream with an eighth-inning single, the Yankees manager was sticking by his original statements -- at 111 pitches, Dave Robertson was coming in to face the next Rays hitter, no matter what.
"I've got to do what I believe is right for CC and this organization," Girardi said. "I would have been booed here -- on the road. But that's part of the decisions that you have to make as a manager.
"You can't be short-sighted. You focus on winning the game that day, but you can't be short-sighted on someone's health and the long-term effect that it has on your organization."
Sabathia's pre-determined leash was going to be 120 pitches at the absolute maximum, and more likely between 110 and 115 for his second start of the year.
It would not have been an issue later in the season for Sabathia, one of the game's great workhorses, but pushing him to the neighborhood of 130 pitches so early is not something Girardi or pitching coach Dave Eiland was willing to do.
"He did a fantastic job, obviously," Eiland said. "But what happens if, in five days or a week, he was sore? We'd be kicking ourselves. No matter what, he was coming out, even if he'd struck [Shoppach] out."
Sabathia threw only 104 pitches in his April 4 start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and the Yankees managed the ace lefty's first couple of starts in 2009, as well.
After tossing 96 pitches on Opening Day last year at Baltimore, Sabathia threw 108 pitches in his second start before being let loose for 122 pitches in his third start, the Yankee Stadium opener.
Girardi said that he didn't think Sabathia would be elated if he had to give the ball up with a no-hitter intact, but the manager believed Sabathia's statement that he would have been OK with the decision.
"CC's respectful," Girardi said. "I really think he understands that to send him out there for the ninth, if he throws 20 or 25 pitches and he's not the same pitcher the whole year, you're going to question yourself. It would hurt us."
Surging Teixeira laughs off cold start
ST. PETERSBURG -- Beginning the season hitless through the first 17 at-bats was not the hot start Mark Teixeira had in mind for his second year with the Yankees, but there was nothing he could do but laugh about it.
So he did. After Teixeira snapped his skid Saturday with a fifth-inning, run-scoring double off Rays starter Wade Davis, Teixeira tacked on two more hits and flashed his sense of humor in discussing the breakout.
"It felt good," Teixeira said. "During your career, you always aim for milestones. I wanted to make sure I went 0-for-17, a personal best. And then after that, I wanted to make sure I had a couple of hits."
Teixeira joked that "every seven years" he seems to begin a year with a string like that. Teixeira broke in 0-for-16 with the Rangers in 2003 before finally doubling off Mark Mulder, then with the A's, for his first Major League hit.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi had predicted that Teixeira would break out Saturday, and said that he'd like to see the slugger add to it on Sunday, Teixeira's 30th birthday.
"It's great for Tex," Girardi said. "Tex knows he's a great hitter, and he's put up great numbers every year. But still, it's no fun to look up at that board and not have your first hit and you're in the fifth game. It's no fun as a player. I just had a feeling that it was going to happen. He swung the bat great."
If World Series MVP Hideki Matsui wants to come out of the Angels dugout and line up on Tuesday to receive his ring along with the rest of his former Yankees teammates, that would be just fine with manager Joe Girardi. "It'd be kind of neat," Girardi said. ... The Yankees have not officially announced all details of their plans for the home opener, but players and coaches will be receiving their rings from Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. Bernie Williams will throw the ceremonial first pitch. ... Fans are being urged to arrive early at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday and take mass transit if possible. Festivities for New York's 108th home opener begin at 12:15 p.m. ET, with gates opening at 11 a.m. ... Over the Yankees' last five games, through Sunday, the bullpen has given up two earned runs and two walks in 13 2/3 innings, going 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA (nine hits, nine strikeouts).
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.