A-Rod's homerless drought now hitless
Making final out of Yanks' loss, slugger extends skid at plate
NEW YORK -- The change of scenery didn't aid Alex Rodriguez.
Arriving back home from a seven-game homerless stretch on the road, the Yankees' third baseman couldn't deliver homer No. 600 in his return to the Bronx on Monday night, finishing the Yankees' 8-6 loss to the Blue Jays with an 0-for-5 performance that included two strikeouts.
But now, Rodriguez's problem is no longer about clubbing homers. It's about tallying hits. With his game-ending groundout to Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar, Rodriguez extended his hitless streak to 14 at-bats.
"The last three or four games, I haven't helped the team and I haven't produced," Rodriguez said. "I've had quality at-bats, but I just haven't been able to finish them. But the bottom line is to produce and help the team win, and I haven't done that the past few days."
Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow wanted to keep it that way. The right-hander stifled Rodriguez with a flurry of fastballs and curveballs, punctuating the slugger's tough night. The second strikeout, however, was particularly frustrating for Rodriguez. After whiffing on Morrow's 87-mph curveball in the fifth, A-Rod vented his discontent over his 11-game homerless drought, slamming the butt of his bat on home plate.
"It's inevitable not to think about it," Rodriguez said about the milestone. "I thought I had some pretty good swings today. At the same time, the idea is to think small and not try to do too much. It's a 25-man roster, and I've just got to do my small part."
Manager Joe Girardi, of course, knows Rodriguez's role is much greater. Following Monday's loss, he acknowledged Rodriguez's recent struggles at the plate but maintained that he wasn't alarmed by the slugger's recent production.
"It's not the longest drought he's had during the course of the year, not hitting a home run," Girardi said. "It's going to happen. You just want him to continue to try to have good at-bats and try not to think about it too much."
But Rodriguez is aware that Girardi's suggestion is easier said than done. The third baseman said that the flashbulbs from the Yankee Stadium crowd and constant baseball changes have been difficult to ignore.
Since clubbing his 599th homer on July 22, Rodriguez is batting just .209 with three doubles and eight RBIs. Rodriguez, however, isn't panicking over his power outage.
"I only have 16 home runs this year," Rodriguez said. "It's not like I have 30. I haven't hit the home runs as often this year. For me, it's about productivity and finishing at-bats. Tonight and the last three to four days, I haven't been able to do that."
"I felt like my balance is good, and I'm very confident I'm going to come out of this and help this team win."
-- Didier Morais
Munson's anniversary special to Posada
NEW YORK -- No one had to remind catcher Jorge Posada what makes Aug. 2 a significant day.
Aug. 2, 1979, was one of the darkest days in Yankees history, when catching legend Thurman Munson died in a plane crash. Posada, a noted Yankees historian, has always tried to honor the memory of Munson with his play on the field.
Posada's play was so reminiscent of Munson's, in fact, that Munson's wife, Diana, cited it as one of the reasons she started watching baseball again.
"She said she stopped watching baseball, and when I was here she started watching it again because I reminded her of him," Posada said. "It meant a lot for me to hear those words from her."
Posada was only 8 years old when Munson died, but he has learned about him through videos the Yankees have given him. Posada even has a newspaper clipping celebrating Munson in his locker and a No. 15 sticker on his laptop.
"I still get a little bit of the chills watching the videos," Posada said. "There's some kind of connection. I feel like I know him. ... He meant a lot to me."
Last year, on the 30th anniversary of Munson's death, Posada wore a No. 15 on his mask. He said that got him in some trouble, although he wouldn't specify with whom it was.
-- Tim Britton
For Berkman, plenty of adjustments
NEW YORK -- The drive to Yankee Stadium didn't prove to be a problem for newly acquired designated hitter Lance Berkman. Navigating through the Yankees' clubhouse, however, was a different story.
Making his Yankee Stadium debut on Monday, Berkman -- acquired from the Astros prior to Saturday's non-waiver Trade Deadline -- joked with manager Joe Girardi that he could've used a map to find the clubhouse.
"I got the Astro routine down pat, and I can do it in my sleep," Berkman said. "I know what time the bus leaves, when to get my bags, who to talk to about any problems. Now, you're trying to learn the ropes. I'm just trying to fit in. All of those things go into being an emotional past 48 hours."
Girardi, of course, can empathize. As the Rockies' catcher in 1995, he was forced to completely readjust his life upon being traded from Colorado to the Yankees.
"It's an adjustment," Girardi said. "You're moving. You're moving your family. You're coming to a team where you don't know too many guys."
But there were a few familiar faces already recognized by Berkman. Playing in the National League Central, he regularly squared off against Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood -- who were also acquired by the Yankees in Deadline deals over the weekend -- during Kearns' time with the Reds and Wood's stint with the Cubs.
"It seems like we got a lot of the NL Central gang back around here," Berkman joked before the game. "That's comforting."
That's about the only similarity Berkman has noticed since coming to New York. On the trip back from a weekend series in St. Petersburg, Fla., Berkman said he experienced some problems picking up his bags and figuring out the team's bus schedule.
In addition to those changes, Berkman had to adjust to batting seventh in Monday's starting lineup, which marked the first time he's batted in that slot in his career. But that's a sacrifice the former Astros slugger will gladly make in order to pursue a World Series title.
"This is the worst season I've ever had offensively," Berkman said. "I'm hoping coming over here, working with [hitting coach Kevin] Long and getting around with these great hitters will help me find my swing again and get back to the level that I know I can still perform at.
"I don't know if I've ever hit seventh. I know I hit sixth before, but I also can't remember a time I've been on a team with, like, eight Hall of Famers."
-- Didier Morais
'Whirlwind' turnaround for Kearns, Wood
NEW YORK -- Austin Kearns looked around at the Yankees' clubhouse and said he could use a GPS to find his way around. Kerry Wood said something about the pinstriped uniform just feeling different.
The Yankees' two new acquisitions from Cleveland couldn't be happier by trading up from last place in the American League Central to first place in the AL East. Each acknowledged that stepping foot into the home dugout at Yankee Stadium felt a little special.
"When I look around, everything to me just rubs off on you as winning," said Kearns, who added that he always enjoyed playing in front of big New York crowds. "These guys win. You sense that. You can feel that when you expect to win and expect big things."
Wood was late to arrive with the team, and he said it's been a bit of a "whirlwind" trying to settle in. After making his first appearance with the Yankees on Sunday in his first outing off the disabled list, the right-hander expects to be more under control his next time out.
"It was adrenaline for the first time in a while," Wood said of his Sunday outing against the Rays, during which he walked two and gave up one hit in one inning. "I'll try to slow it down next time and hopefully be better -- be more effective."
-- Tim Britton
Left-handed reliever Damaso Marte, sidelined with left shoulder pain, threw on flat ground from 90 feet on Monday with no problems and will complete the same exercise on Tuesday from 100 feet. ... Right-hander Alfredo Aceves, out with back pain, threw a bullpen session on Monday and will throw another on Wednesday, which manager Joe Girardi said "is not abnormal." ... Left-hander Andy Pettitte, nursing a left groin strain, played catch with CC Sabathia on Monday and is scheduled to pitch a side session on a date to be determined.
-- Didier Morais
Tim Britton and Didier Morais are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.