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07/04/07 1:36 PM ET

Notes: Reflecting on the Fourth

Yankees mindful of U.S. soldiers risking their lives

NEW YORK -- For many, thoughts of the July 4th holiday conjure warm memories of summer barbecues, colorful fireworks spread across a nighttime sky and time well-spent with friends and family.

On the nation's 231st birthday, several Yankees are also mindful of their patriotism for United States soldiers. During the club's recent road trip to Baltimore, six players took the opportunity to visit the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., interacting with wounded soldiers and gaining perspective on their lives.

The stories told and memories of that visit are what sticks out most on this Independence Day, Yankees first baseman Andy Phillips said.

"It's so hard to put into words, the gratefulness that you feel for what they are doing," Phillips said. "It's just so overwhelming. There's so much you want to say to them, and you feel like you can't put it into words, because it's not adequate enough.

"It's a very touching thing when you go in there and see those men and women who have been wounded and fought for our freedom."

Yankees outfielder and designated hitter Johnny Damon said that his respect for the United States military is a major reason why he has pledged his involvement as a spokesperson for the Wounded Warrior Project, a not-for-profit organization aimed at assisting United States armed forces personnel who have been severely injured in the war on terrorism.

Damon's father, Jimmy, was a career Army NCO, and the outfielder recalled the lasting impact service in the Vietnam War left on his household; often, when a military movie would appear on the television set, Damon's father would ask to be left alone in the room for a while, his emotions getting the better of him.

On last Friday's visit to Walter Reed, Damon joined Phillips, Chris Basak, Andy Pettitte, Scott Proctor and Ron Villone, saying that he was happy to see many of the soldiers in "great spirits."

Phillips said he had numerous conversations with soldiers, many of whom had similar stories to recount from overseas battlefields.

"It holds a big significance, when you see what those men and women are going through so we can do what we're doing," Phillips said. "It's overwhelming. Some were in tanks patrolling, and the next thing they know, they're hit. They're trying to make their way through places and trying to keep their eyes open for bombs or things that are set out.

"Of course, most of them said trying to do that at night is so difficult. You try to think about that and try to put yourself in that position, of trying to navigate through life and what they're doing."

Damon said that the interaction gave him some perspective on whatever situations may be facing himself and those close to him on a daily basis.

"These guys are going off to war, and they're not sure what life has in store for them," Damon said. "A lot of guys don't come back, others have major injuries. They make that sacrifice for us to give us freedom. It's not just this war -- it's all the wars. Where would we be right now without them? I definitely appreciate this day."

Yankees honor July 4: Prior to the first pitch of the Yankees' game against the Twins on Wednesday, public address announcer Bob Sheppard asked all former and current military personnel to rise for a round of applause, acknowledging their service and sacrifices for the United States. The Yankees also donned U.S. flag patches on the left side of their caps for Wednesday's game, which was played on George Steinbrenner's 77th birthday.

AL-Rod? Maybe not: After going 0-for-4 in Tuesday's victory over the Twins, Alex Rodriguez feels he's well enough to play for the Yankees. Representing the American League in the All-Star Game is another story.

Rodriguez strained his left hamstring beating out a fielder's choice on Monday, and he was moving well enough to be back in the lineup for New York on Tuesday, playing third base and even going to his right on a nifty fourth-inning double play. But he still isn't sure if he'll feel up to playing in the Midsummer Classic next Tuesday in San Francisco.

"I told the guys I'd let them know Saturday," Rodriguez said. "But if I feel like this, probably not."

Rodriguez said that no matter his status, he plans to attend the festivities in San Francisco. Yankees manager Joe Torre said that he was impressed by Rodriguez's mobility on Tuesday and had no concerns over his availability.

"He got bounced around a little over there," Torre said. "When I watched him play defense yesterday, he didn't seem to have any kind of problem."

Tough love: Chien-Ming Wang wasn't at his sharpest Tuesday, even as he pitched seven shutout innings against Minnesota, and pitching coach Ron Guidry told the affable 27-year-old so.

Imagine Guidry's surprise, then, when he spotted a New York Post headline trumpeting Wang as "Mr. Wang-derful." It was too much for "Gator" to pass up.

"They're calling you wonderful," Guidry told Wang, showing him the tabloid. "I couldn't believe that. You walked four guys!"

With that, Wang grinned and Guidry threw the newspaper in the trash, stalking off.

Great Joba: Double-A right-hander Joba Chamberlain notched a career-high 12 strikeouts on Tuesday for the Trenton Thunder, leading the Yankees' affiliate to their Eastern League-leading 12th shutout of the season, a 2-0 victory over the Harrisburg Senators.

The 21-year-old Chamberlain, a supplemental first-round selection of the Yankees last season, now has 48 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings for Trenton, and he has been selected to participate in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday in San Francisco.

Quotable: "He looks like a thermometer there, all tall and lean." -- Torre, on right-hander Edwar Ramirez, who struck out the side Tuesday in his Major League debut

Coming up: The Yankees complete their four-game series with the Twins on Thursday, sending left-hander Kei Igawa (2-2, 6.91 ERA) to the mound for the third time since his recall to the Major Leagues.

Minnesota counters with right-hander Kevin Slowey (3-0, 5.13), with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. 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.