Yankees start Johnson at first base
Regular designated hitter makes 2010 debut in field
OAKLAND -- Nick Johnson understood perfectly why the Yankees were bringing him in, looking at his high on-base percentage and believing that it would make for a productive fit in the designated hitter role.
But Johnson never abandoned his first baseman's glove, figuring that Mark Teixeira certainly wasn't about to play all 162 games. For the first time this year, Johnson got to dust it off in a game situation Thursday, playing his first defensive innings of the season.
"You have to be ready," Johnson said. "That's all I can do, take ground balls and make my throws to second. When it's game time, you catch the ball and do what I've always done."
The DH role is new for Johnson, who entered play Thursday batting .136 with one home run and five RBIs in 15 games -- but with a team-leading 18 walks and a .406 on-base percentage.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to give Teixeira a half-day off (he remained in the lineup at DH), but it might help Johnson to get on the field and back into what has been his more normal routine during his big league career.
"He lined out a lot, and if those are base hits, you don't know where he is right now," Girardi said. "It's probably extremely easy to be a DH when you're going well, but when you're not, you probably think about it more."
Johnson downplayed the effect of not playing defense, saying that he is figuring out how to keep himself sharp for his four or five at-bats each game. He still loves taking infield practice, but is fine with the idea of DHing the rest of the season.
"My swing hasn't been too good, but that's not because I haven't been out there running around," Johnson said. "I'm in a good routine, but I'm just not getting it done. If you don't have your swing, you don't have your swing, but I feel good."
Sabathia works with Cervelli again
OAKLAND -- CC Sabathia had a familiar target to throw to again on Thursday, teaming with Francisco Cervelli to comprise the Yankees' battery for the series finale against the Athletics.
While Sabathia and Cervelli are working together for the third straight contest, manager Joe Girardi said that it was due more to the effect of a day game after a night game than their success.
"It's not one guy catching one guy -- it's just kind of the way it's worked out lately," Girardi said. "Being a guy that caught one or two out of five at times in my career, it is easier when you catch the same guy. But we're not looking at it that way."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Sabathia and Cervelli do seem to click. Sabathia is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in those two starts against the Rays and Rangers, allowing one run on four hits in 13 2/3 innings with two walks and 14 strikeouts.
"He wants to learn," Sabathia said. "He's always asking questions. He wants to go over the first couple of hitters of the inning every inning. I think that helps out a lot. He watches a lot of video and he's pretty sure of himself when he calls a pitch, so that helps."
Yankees match 1926 club mark
OAKLAND -- The standings do a good job of telling Joe Girardi that his team is off to a good start, but the history books seem to be stating the case even more effectively.
With the series win in Oakland already clinched, the club has matched the 1926 Yankees' all-time franchise record by winning each of the first five series of the season. Only one other club in team history started with as many as four series wins in a row, the 1922 Yankees.
This is the Yankees' best 14-game start since 2003, when they were also 11-3. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees are the third defending World Series champions -- and the first in 88 years -- to win their first five series. The 1904 Red Sox and 1922 Giants were the others.
"By no means have we played perfect baseball, but we've played it at a very high level," Girardi said. "I'm very pleased with the way we're playing. You're never going to have times where 25 guys are on top of their games at the same time, but you can still wish for it."
The Yankees did not expect to have right-handers Joba Chamberlain or Mariano Rivera available on Thursday after they both appeared in the first two games of the A's series. ... Chan Ho Park (right hamstring strain) was scheduled to play catch for a third consecutive day on Thursday. He is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on April 29, and could be sent to make one Minor League rehab appearance. ... According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three other active pitchers can join Phil Hughes in claiming to have two no-hitters through six innings in their first 30 big league starts -- Jamie Moyer, Derek Lowe and Hiroki Kuroda.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.