Light dimming on Posada's bright career
As Yanks look for boost, proud veteran accepts diminished role
BOSTON -- A proud Yankees career may be coming to a very quiet end, on the bench.
Jorge Posada, who has been a substantial part of five World Series championship teams, was dropped from the Yankees' starting lineup on Sunday night. It is unclear when, or if, he might return to his primary 2011 role as the club's designated hitter.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke with Posada on Sunday and told the veteran that he would no longer serve as the regular DH. Girardi said he could not promise when Posada will next start.
"I'm very disappointed," Posada said. "You want to be out there, but right now, it's about winning ballgames. [Girardi] said he's going to put the best team he can on the field. Today, I'm not in there.
"I'm not happy about it, but right now, I can't do [anything] about it," Posada said. "I put myself in this situation. You've got to just keep on working."
Posada entered Sunday hitting just .230 with a .309 on-base percentage and a .372 slugging percentage. These are numbers that even a dominant offense such as the Yankees' cannot carry indefinitely at the DH spot.
In Posada's place, Eric Chavez moved from third base to start at DH for the Yankees on Sunday night. Eduardo Nunez started at third. The changes did not immediately improve the New York offense. The Yankees lost, 3-2, in 10 innings to the Boston Red Sox. Chavez was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, although Nunez did hit a solo home run.
The Yankees ran their winning streak to eight games after defeating Boston on Friday night, but by losing the last two games of this series, they fell to second place in the American League East. Their record against Boston this season dropped to an unsightly 2-10.
Now, the Yankees have made this one adjustment in their lineup, although Girardi declined to say how long it might be maintained. The manager said, for instance, that he could not predict specifically what he would do with the lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Angels at Yankee Stadium, much less the more distant future.
"We're going to see how this works," Girardi said of Sunday night's lineup. "We'll try some different things. I told Jorgie, 'You're still going to be a big part of this, and we need you.' We're just going to do some different things.
"It's tough -- Jorgie and I have a relationship that goes back a long, long ways, to 1996," Girardi said. "He's done so many great things in this game and great things for the Yankees -- been part of so many championships and division winners. I know how much he wants to be a part of this."
Posada has been a member of a very exclusive group that was known up until this year as the "Core Four," the players who had been with the Yankees for five championships, dating back to a previous century. With Andy Pettitte's retirement, the group is now down to a trio -- Posada, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
It was a very difficult Sunday night for two-thirds of that stalwart group. Posada was told to take a seat, and Rivera suffered a rare blown save that opened the door for Boston's extra-inning victory. Girardi put Rivera's work in proper perspective.
"He's not perfect," the manager said. "He's pretty close, but he's not perfect."
Meanwhile, Posada, who will turn 40 this month, is in the last year of a four-year, $52.4 million contract. The Yankees initially balked at giving Posada a fourth year, and the reasons for that reluctance have become clearer.
For the 2011 season, the Yankees determined that Posada was no longer a serviceable catcher and acquired Russell Martin as their front-line catcher, retaining Francisco Cervelli as the backup. The only role left for Posada was that of DH and, infrequently, first baseman. But his adjustment to the DH role has not been what either he or the Yankees hoped. Posada started slowly at the plate and built to a fine June, but subsequently tailed off again.
Now, prospects for Posada playing a major role in the stretch run seem severely limited, barring injuries or dismal performances by players currently in front of him. With the return of Alex Rodriguez from the disabled list expected in about a week, Chavez will presumably get at-bats as the DH, although some days, the DH may be reserved for Rodriguez.
Girardi did say, in response to a question, that he did not foresee a situation in which Posada would not finish the year on the Yankees' active roster.
Jorge Posada's career with the Yankees has been a long, proud and productive one. Its final chapter may be characterized by nothing as sterling or as stirring as the vast majority of his career. It may be characterized simply by inactivity.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.