02/27/08 8:45 PM ET
Notes: Role no problem for Betemit
Reserve infielder confident in defense after proving versatility
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
After Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract during Game 4 of the World Series, Betemit was touted as an internal candidate to replace the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, even though the Yankees planned to evaluate other options.
Most were stunned when A-Rod wound up back in pinstripes, signing a landmark 10-year contract. Betemit was not among them.
"Everybody knew that Alex was going to play third base, so I knew I would have to wait," Betemit said.
Acquired from the Dodgers at last July's non-waiver trade deadline for reliever Scott Proctor, Betemit is unlikely to see regular duty anywhere but first base, barring an injury. He is in the mix with Jason Giambi, Shelley Duncan and Morgan Ensberg for spring at-bats, although his role is more likely to be as a reserve infielder.
"I'm OK -- I know the situation here," Betemit said. "Those guys have to play every day. There's nobody in the big leagues like A-Rod, Derek Jeter and [Robinson] Cano. I just have to wait for my time and know that any day they get a day off, I'm going to play."
As part of his preparation, Betemit said he lost about 15 pounds in the Dominican Republic during the offseason, adhering to a running and weightlifting regimen. Though Betemit appeared at all four infield positions after joining the Yankees last season, he admitted to being too bulky to play shortstop regularly.
"Last year, it was too much weight for me," Betemit said. "[Over the winter], I'd work out in the morning and go running. In the Dominican, I worked out for about 2 1/2 months like that. I was doing something different every day."
Betemit said that he worked out mostly at first base and second base while in the Dominican Republic. Having never played first base before former manager Joe Torre suggested he take ground balls last year, Betemit said he feels he is growing into a competent gloveman around the bag.
"It wasn't easy, but the more I did it, it was better," Betemit said. "If you can play shortstop, you can play everywhere. Right now, it feels good, and I can play anywhere they ask me to play."
'Dorf's drop: Watching the Yankees' intrasquad game on Wednesday, manager Joe Girardi was impressed by most of the relievers who took the mound. But one may have had more sink than the rest.
Ross Ohlendorf, who posted a 2.84 ERA in six big league appearances last year and made the postseason roster, may be able to state a solid case for Opening Day in New York thanks to a power sinker that induces infield ground balls.
"If the coaching staff decides they want me to go to New York, I certainly feel like I'd be up for it," the 25-year-old Ohlendorf said. "I think having pitched there, I'm more confident. It's reassuring to know what it takes to pitch there."
On Wednesday, Girardi said that Ohlendorf threw a nice 3-2 slider to a left-handed batter after falling behind, 3-0, and also jammed two right-handed batters.
Ohlendorf, acquired from the Diamondbacks last January in the Randy Johnson deal, said that he understands there are few bullpen spots available, but he welcomes the challenge.
"I think it's good for all of us," he said. "Everything in this game is about competition, in whatever form it comes. It should help bring the best out of people."
Familiar foes: Jeff Karstens logged the victory for the "Goose" team on Wednesday, pitching two scoreless innings around a hit, retiring the first five men he faced, including Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu and Rodriguez. Karstens threw 20 pitches, 13 for strikes.
Mike Mussina was tagged with the loss, pitching two innings for the "Gator" roster. Mussina allowed two runs -- one unearned -- on four hits, walking one and striking out one. He threw 30 pitches, 23 for strikes.
Most of the regular players in the game were removed after one at-bat; by the fourth inning, Damon was already in street clothes and headed for the ballpark exit. The Goose beat the Gator, 6-2, and Girardi said it was important to allow rookies to play in anticipation of the upcoming exhibition slate.
"It's always nice to get those young kids in there so they're a little more comfortable when Friday and Saturday roll around," Girardi said.
Bombers bits: Right-hander Scott Strickland will be sidelined for at least a few days with swelling near his pitching elbow. Strickland, a non-roster invitee, protested, but the Yankees decided to shut him down. ... Scott Patterson was struck by a batted ball during Wednesday's intrasquad game. The right-hander suffered a contusion near his right ankle. ... Ensberg had the only extra-base hit of the intrasquad game, doubling in the seventh inning off Mark Melancon. Ensberg also scored three runs.
Coming up: The Yankees will have an abbreviated workout on Thursday morning, with players required to dress by 9:30 a.m. ET and expected to leave the field at 11:10 a.m. The light day is a prelude to New York's first exhibition game of the spring against the University of South Florida on Friday, when Joba Chamberlain will start for the Yankees.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.