07/06/09 7:45 PM ET
Hinske has strong Yankees debut
Right fielder homers, makes diving catch in loss to Jays
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Hinske instantly endeared himself to the loudest fans at Yankee Stadium by spinning around and offering an exaggerated flex of his right biceps. He then contributed a diving catch in the first inning and also later homered in New York's 7-6 loss to Toronto.
"They told me that I had to do something cool," Hinske said. "Brett Gardner and Joba [Chamberlain] were on me, saying, 'You can't just point at them.' The only thing I could think of was flexing, so I pulled my shirt up a little bit. I think they liked it."
The Yankees outfielders try and acknowledge the chants ringing through the ballpark in entertaining ways -- Johnny Damon goes down to one knee and fires both arms in a rock star pose, reminiscent of Elvis Presley, while Nick Swisher spins on a heel and presents a military salute.
Hinske's entry to that group is welcome, but what is more important to the Yankees is that he offers production in a reserve role. Hinske went 2-for-4 in his debut, which included a fifth-inning solo home run off Ricky Romero that kissed the right-field foul pole.
"That was a very cool experience," Hinske said. "You couldn't ask for anything more, really. I was just trying to get a hit. I just didn't want to go 0-for-4, to be honest with you."
Hinske was obtained from Pittsburgh on June 30 in exchange for two Minor Leaguers and cash considerations, but he had to wait an extra day to join the team as bad weather canceled his flight to New York.
There was another delay to endure on Sunday: Hinske was originally intended to start at third base against Toronto, but the Blue Jays made a change to their rotation when right-hander Scott Richmond was forced to the 15-day disabled list. Left-hander Brett Cecil stepped in, and Hinske bowed out for Cody Ransom.
"It just kind of worked out where we're seeing all left-handed pitchers, so if you're going to play matchups, it's tough to play left on left all the time," Hinske said. "I understand my role -- whatever I can do to help when I'm on that lineup card."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he is looking for opportunities to get Hinske -- who has now played for four of the five teams in the American League East, lacking only the Orioles -- into games. Hinske was in Monday to offer Damon a day off.
"[Hinske] knows how to play this role, where he might play for a couple of days in a row and then not play for a while," Girardi said. "That's comfortable to have a guy like that."
In 54 games with the Pirates this season, Hinske hit .255 (27-for-106) with one home run and 11 RBIs, seeing 13 games of defensive duty in right field.
Hinske told Girardi that he felt somewhat more comfortable in right field than at first base, where he played six games for the Pirates, so Girardi decided to move Swisher to first base on Monday.
"I've seen him be very productive, whether it was in Tampa [Bay] or Toronto," Girardi said. "He did a great job platooning in right field.
"He's a guy that grinds out his at-bats, a pretty high on-base percentage guy with some power who can steal a base if you don't pay attention to him. The thing is, he's been in the American League East a lot, so he knows this league."
Hinske said that, as a left-handed hitter, he could get pretty comfortable taking aim at Yankee Stadium's right-field porch. And the fan reception certainly didn't hurt on Day 1.
"They're great," Hinske said. "To hear them chanting my name out there was really cool, and they're awesome. They're good fans out there. I've been on the other side of some of those cheers for about seven years, so it was good to have them in my corner today."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.