05/21/07 8:30 PM ET
Notes: Abreu 'back' after long lull
Torre sees more patient approach in right fielder's at-bats
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
After Abreu went 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored and two walks in the Yankees' 6-2 victory over the Mets on Sunday, manager Joe Torre proclaimed that Abreu was "back" -- extricated from the depths of a skid that saw him log just five hits in 30 at-bats on the road trip, before the series finale at Shea Stadium.
"Abreu is about as close as he's been since he started this little slump of his," Torre said.
Abreu, batting .243 with two home runs and 22 RBIs, agrees that the worst could be over.
"I've been in a slump a few times," Abreu said. "I feel more comfortable right now. I just feel a little better at the plate."
Torre said that he has been seeing signs of Abreu's emergence in recent games, which can date back to the first game of a doubleheader last Wednesday at Chicago. Abreu had hit a solo home run in the fifth inning of the Yankees' 5-3 loss, and he later ripped a single.
Yet it hasn't just been the hits that have impressed Torre. Abreu, normally an extremely patient hitter, went a career-high 61 plate appearances between walks earlier this month, but he worked a pair of free passes in Sunday's game. Torre said that he has noticed Abreu's outs growing louder in recent contests as well, as the right fielder has hit a few deep drives and has stopped trying to pull pitches as often.
"They were few and far between, as far as stinging the ball that way," Torre said.
For Abreu, the personal slump was exacerbated by the Yankees' early-season struggles. The surge may be short-lived -- Torre pointed out that Abreu does not own excellent career numbers against Monday's Red Sox starter, Tim Wakefield (4-for-16, .250) -- but for now, Abreu is hopeful that better days lie ahead for both himself and the club.
"When you struggle and the team wins, you feel bad, but it's different," Abreu said. "When the team keeps losing, you feel like you don't help. You don't contribute to win some games. I [felt] worse."
Rocket cameo? The Yankees were on the lookout for this season's second surprise Roger Clemens visit at Yankee Stadium on Monday. The last time the right-hander popped up in the Bronx, he announced his return from George Steinbrenner's private suite in a wild May 6 game against the Mariners.
Not surprisingly, this time around, no one seemed quite sure if or when Clemens would arrive. Because Clemens is a Minor League player who is not on the Yankees' 40-man roster, Torre said he did not believe that Clemens could even visit the locker that is waiting in reserve for him in the Yankees' clubhouse.
Bronx visit or no, Clemens should have plenty of time to catch up with his teammates in future weeks. He is scheduled to make his second Minor League start on Wednesday for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, pitching in an Eastern League game against the Portland Sea Dogs.
From there, Clemens will confer to decide if he needs one more rehab start, likely a May 28 tune-up for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, or shoot right on to join the Major League club, appearing in the team's series at Toronto.
Torre said the Yankees are not rushing Clemens along, and the decision for the right-hander to make two Minor League starts or three will be his own.
"You want to believe [that Clemens might pitch in May], but you don't want to think about it, because you don't want to be disappointed if he decides that he wants another outing," Torre said.
Torre, who has not spoken with Clemens to gauge his thought process, said that the Yankees would be satisfied with a quality effort from Clemens, at least for the first few times out.
"I don't think he's going to come here and pitch seven or eight innings," Torre said. "If he pitches five or six innings, I think that's important. It's all about the quality of what you can do, especially starting out."
Clippard celebrates, now waits: Tyler Clippard sat with his family in a hotel room after earning his first Major League win on Sunday. No restaurants remained opened, Clippard said, so he and the family called a taxi and found a McDonald's.
Clippard did, however, end up with a glass of champagne in his hands before too long. He received plenty of phone messages and texts that night, but the Yankees rookie right-hander ignored most of them -- at least for a few hours.
"My family was right there, so I didn't really call anybody last night," he said. "[My family is] who I wanted to share that with."
The next day, Clippard talked with several of his buddies and his agent, too. Then the questions started boiling: Would he make another start in pinstripes this week?
Matt DeSalvo, another rookie who impressed in his first couple of outings this season, hasn't pitched since the White Sox knocked him around for four runs in 3 1/3 innings on May 17. The Yankees could start him or Clippard on Friday in the opening game of a three-game series against the Angels.
The decision isn't finalized yet, but Clippard said he talked with pitching coach Ron Guidry after his start and got the feeling that he would be taking the mound on Friday.
"I think that's kind of what he was hitting at," Clippard said of his conversation with Guidry.
Torre added: "Between the two of them, I think DeSalvo could probably handle the 'pen easier."
Back in action: Torre said he had no second thoughts about penciling in Jason Giambi's name as a designated hitter on Monday night, coming off a series at Shea Stadium in which he was limited to two pinch-hit at-bats.
The Yankees were limited in their use of Giambi because of a lingering bone spur and plantar fasciitis in the slugger's left foot, which concerned Torre that Giambi wouldn't be able to stay in the game and play defense under National League rules.
But with the designated hitter back in effect as American League play resumed on Monday, Giambi, who did not speak to reporters before the game, was cleared for duty.
"I guess it's not always as tender as it has been for him," Torre said.
In his first at-bat on Monday night, Giambi hit an upper-deck home run to right field off Wakefield.
Tough break: Right-hander Darrell Rasner was back in the Yankees' clubhouse on Monday, sporting a heavy bandage on his surgically repaired right hand.
Rasner, 26, suffered a fractured right index finger when he was hit with a batted ball in Saturday's start against the Mets, and he is expected to miss up to three months.
"It's very disappointing," said Rasner, who was knocked out after just nine pitches. "I was starting to feel comfortable and confident. I thought things were going well. Just leaving that bullpen hanging for nine innings, that's what bugged me the worst. They're so battered as it is."
Rasner said he had two pins inserted in his finger and that he will be able to resume some semblance of baseball activities within three to four weeks. But the idea of carrying some metal in his body is nothing new to the hurler, who said he had 12 screws and two plates inserted after breaking his left arm during a freak weightlifting accident in high school.
Comeback trail: Right-hander Phil Hughes threw 25 pitches off a half-mound on Monday at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla., The Associated Press reported. Hughes suffered a strained left hamstring while working on a no-hitter on May 1 at Texas.
Coming up: The Yankees and Red Sox will face off in Game 2 of their three-game series on Tuesday evening, with right-hander Mike Mussina (2-2, 5.64 ERA) getting the call for New York. Boston will counter with right-hander Julian Tavarez (2-4, 5.59 ERA), with first pitch set for 7:05 ET on the YES Network.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.