CC set to face Johan -- from plate
Yanks' ace brings potent bat into matchup with Mets lefty
NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia has had a fair amount of success in his career against Johan Santana, having won his past three starts against the Mets' ace left-hander. But Sunday night's matchup presents a new and different challenge for Sabathia, who will oppose Santana from the batter's box for the first time.
"It's the first time I ever get to hit off him," Sabathia said. "I'm excited for it. I don't know how excited I will be after the game tomorrow, but I'm excited now."
Sabathia has a right to look forward to stepping into Citi Field's left-handed batter's box. He's a career .261 hitter with three home runs -- two of which were hit in Interleague games while he was a member of the Indians. One of those long balls was a 440-foot drive off then-Dodgers righty and current teammate Chan Ho Park. In 44 lifetime Interleague at-bats, Sabathia has 13 hits, good for a .295 average.
"It's not that easy," Sabathia said when asked if getting back in the box were like riding a bike. "I just like to do it. I enjoy doing it. I have fun, I take it seriously. I'm excited to get the chance to do it again [on Sunday]."
Sabathia was excited enough about his first at-bat of 2010 that he checked the pitching matchups earlier than usual. Whereas he usually doesn't care which pitcher he faces, Sabathia knew two weeks ago that he was lined up to oppose Santana. He wasn't happy about it.
"It stinks because he's left-handed," said Sabathia, who does own a better lifetime average against fellow southpaws than righties, even if all of his home runs have come against right-handers. "I was hoping that I got to pitch [Saturday] or something."
Sabathia wasn't necessarily disrespecting Mets righty Mike Pelfrey, who is started on Saturday night. After all, Sabathia knocked an RBI single off Pelfrey last season at Citi Field. For what it's worth, Santana has yielded two home runs to pitchers in his career -- a two-run homer to Mike Hampton last season and a grand slam to Felix Hernandez in 2008 during an Interleague game at Shea Stadium.
Despite his prowess at the plate and the Yankees' short bench of late, Sabathia did not ask manager Joe Girardi about a potential pinch-hit appearance.
"I've never done that because I know the answer," Sabathia said.
-- Tim Britton
Yanks hope Vazquez can keep turn
NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that it is "way too early to tell" if Javier Vazquez will be able to make his next scheduled start, on Thursday against the Twins, but the skipper remains hopeful that the right-hander's bruised right index finger will not include a setback.
"It didn't look too bad," Girardi said. "It was a little swollen [on Friday] night, but they'll do a lot of treatment to try to get that swelling out. To me, what's really going to matter is if he can hold the ball and feel comfortable."
Vazquez was injured in the seventh inning of Friday's 2-1 Yankees victory over the Mets while trying to get a bunt down. He is expected to throw a bullpen session on Monday during the Yankees' off-day to prepare for that start against Minnesota.
Vazquez said that he was "embarrassed" by the injury. It could have happened to anyone, but Vazquez considers himself an experienced hitter -- last year, he had 91 plate appearances with the Braves and led the Majors with 20 sacrifice bunts.
Girardi said that Vazquez's malady was just one more item to consider on the topic of pitchers batting in Interleague Play against National League clubs. Of course, the Yankees still vividly recall losing Chien-Ming Wang to injury in 2008, and they're thankful Vazquez's injury does not appear to be as serious.
"It's always somewhat of a concern, because it's not something that they do every day," Girardi said. "Their bodies aren't accustomed to it necessarily. If you're in the National League, you probably hit most every day, but it's still different when you hit in the game because the intensity turns up."
Thames 'available' to hit, says Girardi
NEW YORK -- Four days after spraining his left ankle by stepping on his own bat, Yankees outfielder Marcus Thames appears closer to returning.
Thames, who was available as a pinch-hitter in Friday's 2-1 win over the Mets, planned to test his ankle by running in the outfield before Saturday's game.
"I'll got out today and see what I've got," Thames said.
Thames was announced as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of Saturday's 5-3 loss but was replaced by Juan Miranda when the Mets brought in right-hander Fernando Nieve to replace Pedro Feliciano, a lefty.
A day after Kevin Russo started in left field and had two hits, including a two-run double, Randy Winn got the starting nod on Saturday.
Thames last played on Wednesday, when he left a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays after tripping on his own bat while running to first base on a single. He said the swelling in the ankle had disappeared.
"There was a little bit yesterday," Thames said of the swelling. "But today, I got some treatment. It feels better. Hopefully, I can go out there and put my weight on it."
"He's available to me," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's made progress. As far as being an outfielder, I probably wouldn't do that. If he hit for me, I might even pinch-run for him."
Before Thames returns to the outfield, he'll need to prove his ankle can stand the starting and stopping required of playing a corner-outfield position.
"The biggest thing is making cuts and stuff on it," Thames said.
With the Yankees set to face left-hander Johan Santana on Sunday night, an available Thames would help the lineup. In his career, the right-handed batter has hit .235 with a .295 on-base percentage against righties but .263 with a .337 OBP and a .521 slugging percentage against lefties. In 71 plate appearances this year, Thames has hit .357 with a .465 OBP and two home runs.
-- Thomas Boorstein
Excitement sets in for Yanks' Russo
NEW YORK -- You might have expected Kevin Russo to race to the newsstand on Saturday morning and see how the tabloids played his first Major League hits and RBIs, which helped the Yankees post a 2-1 victory over the Mets in Friday's Subway Series opener.
But Russo abstained from both the newspapers and television highlights, keeping his priorities in order. Before reporting to Citi Field on Saturday, the 25-year-old rookie had two goals to accomplish -- finding a lunch spot and replenishing his dwindling clothing supply after last week's callup.
"I was more thinking about what time I needed to get here so I wasn't late," Russo said. "I guess I wasn't expecting [the coverage], but like I kept saying last night, it was exciting. I'm glad I got the hit."
The ball Russo connected with in the third inning on Friday for his first big league hit was returned to the dugout and tucked away for safekeeping. Head athletic trainer Gene Monahan will soon work his penmanship magic and provide Russo with a souvenir he can keep for the rest of his life.
"I'll probably look at it for a while," Russo said. "I might keep it at my Mom's house, let her keep it and show it to people. I'm sure she'd love that."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Russo was the first Major Leaguer to drive in all of his team's runs in a victory in his first start since Montreal's Shane Andrews on April 27, 1995. No Yankee had done it since Archie Moore on Oct. 4, 1964 against the Indians.
Russo's first hits -- and an outfield catch on the first Mets batter of the game -- were witnessed by family members in attendance.
Russo was born in West Babylon, N.Y., and even though he grew up in Boulder, Colo., he said that he has spent a lot of time on Long Island. His brother, Ryan, and 8-year-old niece, Deandra, flew to New York for Friday's game.
"I wasn't nervous," Russo said. "I just tried to tell myself I was going out and playing baseball. I didn't try to do anything special, I didn't try to do too much. I got prepared the same way I usually do."
On the disabled list with lower back pain, right-hander Alfredo Aceves will travel to Tampa, Fla., on Monday to continue his rehabilitation program. ... Outfielder Curtis Granderson (left groin strain) began his rehab stint with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on Saturday at Louisville. ... The Yankees' 2-1 win on Friday was their first one-run victory of 2010. They are now 1-4 in such contests and were the Major Leagues' last team to win a one-run game. ... Yankees roving hitting coordinator James Rowson is working with the club this weekend, with hitting coach Kevin Long excused to attend his son's high school graduation. ... Pitching coach Dave Eiland will miss Sunday's game to attend his daughter's confirmation. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey will fill in.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.