Yankees, Pinstripe Bowl form partnership with Big Ten

NEW YORK -- The Steinbrenner family has always had ties to the Big Ten. George Steinbrenner met his wife, Elizabeth Joan Zieg, while they both attended Ohio State, and he later coached football at Northwestern and Purdue in the late 1950s.

So with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl's agreement with the Big 12 and Big East set to expire after the 2013 season, the Yankees decided to join forces with a historic football conference that runs in the family.

On Monday, Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany announced an eight-year partnership between the conference and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, a college football bowl game played at Yankee Stadium in December.

"This is a bowl game that has grown in its scope and popularity since the beginning, and it's something we're very, very proud of," Steinbrenner said. "Having the Big Ten involved will take it to even new heights."

The bowl game was first played in 2010, when Syracuse defeated Kansas State, 36-34. Rutgers beat Iowa State, 27-13, in 2011, and Syracuse won it for a second time this past December, routing West Virginia, 38-14.

The attendance for the games has risen for all three games, too, going from 38,274 in 2010 to a record 41,203 last season.

"The skeptics were out in force when we first announced doing a football game in New York at the end of December," Steinbrenner said. "But we're very pleased with how it's developed over the past three or four years."

Yankees president Randy Levine said the skeptics were concerned the game wouldn't be a good idea because of New York's harsh weather during the winter. But given the city's history, Levine said there's no better place to have a football game in December.

"There's no place, during the holiday season, like New York City," Levine said. "This is the only city, during that time, that they make movies about and write songs about during that time of the year. … The Boss is smiling tonight. He really is."

For the Big Ten, the move represents another step toward the conference gaining a bigger presence on the East Coast. Maryland and Rutgers are slated to join the conference in 2014, and the Pinstripe Bowl has already established itself as one of the highest-rated pre-New Year's Day bowl games in the country.

"When we began planning, we had an objective to land in New York," Delaney said. "Not only is New York the financial and sports capital of the country; it is also the place you need to be if you want to plan a national slate of bowl games."

For Yankees fans, it means they can watch look forward to watching football in Yankee Stadium for years to come.

"College football was a big part of the old stadium, pre-renovation. There were a lot of games there, and it was important for us to bring it back," Steinbrenner said. "And we got it back in a big way."

Overbay gets outfield opportunity; Boesch sent out

CLE@NYY: Overbay makes first career start in right

NEW YORK -- The idea of transitioning to the outfield was first floated to Lyle Overbay two days ago. Yet it wasn't until he arrived in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse prior to Monday's series opener that Overbay knew for certain he'd be making his Major League debut in the outfield.

Overbay started in right field Monday night using a spare outfield glove provided by pitcher Boone Logan, marking Overbay's first appearance in the field at anywhere other than first base in his 13-year career. The 36-year-old, whose own outfield glove was en route to Yankee Stadium as of game time, had previously appeared in 1,375 games exclusively as a first baseman, designated hitter or pinch-hitter.

"We've been forced to be a little bit creative here because of some of the injuries," manager Joe Girardi said. "And we just feel that we're going to give him an opportunity out there, and [keeping Overbay on the roster] also gives us coverage for [Mark Teixeira] at first base, if he needs a day off."

With Teixeira's recent return to first base and Travis Hafner's success as the club's DH this season, there was some speculation that Overbay could be designated for assignment to make room for Monday starter Andy Pettitte's return from the disabled list.

Instead, the club elected to option outfielder Brennan Boesch to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and give Overbay -- hitting .247 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 51 games this season -- a shot in the outfield.

"That's kind of why I got released in Boston and Arizona, because I only played that one position," said Overbay, who played some outfield for the Red Sox in Spring Training before his release in March. "We have a DH that's done a very good job, so you can't kick him out of his spot, so yeah, [being designated] crossed my mind, for sure."

Along with his outfield work in Spring Training, Overbay made 30 starts in the outfield (25 in left, five in right) during his earlier playing days in the Minor Leagues -- though that was more than a decade ago. As for what Girardi expects out of Overbay in his new role, the skipper said he just wants Overbay to continue his offensive production while providing sufficient play defensively.

"I don't expect him to go out there and be a Gold Glove right fielder," Girardi said. "I expect him to add offensively for us and just do a good job out there."

Boesch, who signed with the Yankees during Spring Training after being released by the Tigers, was on his second stint with New York this season. He played in 23 games, and hit .275 with three home runs and eight RBIs. 

"If you're going to give Lyle some opportunities in right field, Brennan, it's probably going to take a few away from him," Girardi said. "We'll get him playing everyday down there and that should help him as well."

Swisher happy with Tribe, grateful for time with Yanks

CLE@NYY: Swisher gets ovation in return to New York

NEW YORK -- Nick Swisher was not nervous about taking the field at Yankee Stadium on Monday night. Of course, he was in the lineup for the Indians as their first baseman, eliminating a reunion with the right field bleacher creatures.

Swisher's last appearance in right field in the Bronx came in pinstripes and the locals were hard on him for a subpar postseason performance. He would rather not revisit that final forgettable chapter of his otherwise memorable time with the Yankees. Swisher enjoyed his time in New York and he is happy with his newfound leadership role with Cleveland.

"Live in the now, bro," Swisher said.

Swisher spent four seasons with the Yankees, further establishing himself as a great clubhouse presence and consistent on-field performer. When New York made it clear that Swisher would not be back for another year, he explored free agency and landed a four-year, $56 million contract with the Indians that includes a club option for 2017.

Monday marked his first trip back to Yankee Stadium since last October and Swisher was excited to see how fans responded to his return.

"I'm looking forward to it," Swisher said. "I think it's going to be awesome, man. I think it's just one of the greatest places I got the opportunity to play. I know Bald Vinny and them creatures are going to be out there [in the bleachers]. I'm looking forward to seeing all of them."

During his first at-bat in the first inning on Monday, fans at Yankee Stadium cheered for Swisher as his name was announced. After the warm reception, he took a moment to wave to the crowd before batting. Then, in the bottom of the first, fans in the right-field bleachers gave him his own roll call, chanting, "Swisher! Swisher!"

Swisher, 32, had hit .264 with seven home runs, 14 doubles, 20 RBIs and 26 walks in 50 games with the Indians entering Monday's tilt. It has been a performance in line with his four seasons in New York. During that stretch, the switch-hitter posted a .268 batting average with an average of 26 homers and 87 RBIs in 150 games per season.

Swisher said he owed a lot to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for trading for him after a rough 2008 season in Chicago. He added that he was enjoying seeing the city again, and reconnecting with old friends at the ballpark.

"I've got a lot of smiles going on today," Swisher said. "It's super exciting to be back here for a couple days."

Swisher has admitted multiple times that the Yankees lack of interest in re-signing him hurt to a certain extent.

"I had to do my best to step on," Swisher said. "Obviously, making that step was a little harder than most things I've done in my life, but that's part of the game. This is a business."

That said, Swisher is thrilled to be with the Tribe for the next several years.

"It's just a different chapter in my life," he said. "Being in Cleveland, it's such a family environment over there and such great people running the organization. And, hopefully, [we can] be that resurrecting class that can kind of get us back to where we belong. We've been given a great opportunity over here."

Bombers bits

• Catcher Chris Stewart, who left Saturday's game early then missed Sunday's contest while battling symptoms of dizziness, went through workouts Monday without feeling any ill effects. He underwent testing at New York-Presbyterian Hospital prior to Sunday's game and again on Monday, but all tests came back clean and the backstop said he is ready to return to action.

• Right-hander Michael Pineda completed an extended spring start today without any setbacks and could be in line to begin a Minor League rehab assignment. Girardi said Pineda would pitch again on Saturday, though he said it's undecided as of now where that outing will take place.