05/10/07 12:45 AM ET
Yankees enjoy Nieves' landmark hit
Backup catcher draws laughs following slump-busting single
By Caleb Breakey / MLB.com
On Wednesday, the Yankees' backup catcher recorded his first hit since 2002 as a member of the Padres. While his first hit in the big leagues came off five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson, this one came off Texas reliever C.J. Wilson, a line drive to left field in the sixth inning.
The hit snapped an 0-for-22 stretch for Nieves this season. Overall, he was hitless in 34 at-bats dating back to Sept. 29, 2002.
"I knew sooner or later, it was going to happen," Nieves said. "What I'm more excited about is we won."
Nieves and Yankees reliever Brian Bruney talked after the game, and Bruney took the drought-ending bat to his locker. Turns out that Bruney picked the bat for Nieves, like a good-luck charm. And Bruney will give it back to Nieves for his next at-bat.
Yankees manager Joe Torre has observed Nieves' struggles and bad fortune this season, noting the sharp balls he hit in Texas last week and even the grounder he peppered to third base in his first at-bat on Wednesday, before getting his hit.
"It was great," Torre said. "You probably can't imagine how many guys are pulling for this kid."
It's too bad Nieves couldn't savor the hit for more than 170 feet.
The Yankees dugout cheered as Nieves roped his hit into left field, but then Nieves took off for second base. Rangers left fielder Brad Wilkerson threw Nieves out, and Yankees captain Derek Jeter couldn't help but smile.
"It's just like one of those days in Little League, where you just keep running until you're tagged out," Jeter said.
Said Nieves: "I was enjoying the base hit, and the joy kind of went away too quick."
"I'd been hitting the ball with no luck. It just feels good to get a base hit. It feels even better that we won."
The ball Nieves hit -- and eventually the bat he used to hit it with -- will be placed on a mantle in his room one day. No kidding. Yankees great Reggie Jackson made sure of it.
"Did you get the ball?" Jackson said to Nieves in the clubhouse.
Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has been working with Nieves, trying to keep his weight back while letting the ball travel longer. Nieves said that he's also been working with Jeter, who gave him some friendly gruff after the game.
"I was working with him on hitting, and now he told me, 'Tomorrow, we're working on running the bases,'" Nieves said.
Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.