08/27/09 1:33 PM ET
Hairston's versatility quietly valuable
Utilityman proving a good fit with Yanks' winning formula
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
On a roster flush with power hitters, Hairston doesn't necessarily stand out, but the Bombers celebrated as though he hit a record-setting homer on Wednesday. In fact, it was his 10th of the season, the first time he has reached double digits in the category.
"It was a pretty smooth transition," said Hairston, who homered in the fourth inning off Rangers starter Derek Holland on Wednesday. "I knew when I got traded over here, I was getting traded to a first-place team. For me, I was just trying not to mess it up. I just tried to fit in and whenever my name is called, I try to contribute."
Acquired from the Reds on July 31 for Minor League catcher Chase Weems, the 33-year-old Hairston has been a versatile piece on the Yankees' bench, appearing in five games at third base and five games in the outfield entering Thursday's finale with the Rangers.
"It's a pleasure to have a guy like that ... because he can do so many things for you," manager Joe Girardi said. "He allows us to spell a lot of guys, and you know he's going to be productive and give you quality at-bats and play good defense. He has been great for us since we got him."
Part of the reason New York acquired Hairston was because of his ability to play center field, which he has already done once with Brett Gardner on the disabled list and nearing a rehab assignment.
Girardi has said that he would not hesitate to play Hairston anywhere except catcher, and Hairston said that he has been able to adapt to the lessons of being ready and fresh as an option off the bench.
"I just prepare myself as if I'm playing," Hairston said. "I'll get my work in, whether it's in the outfield or another day at short or second. When I do get a chance to play, I try not to do too much. I just try to do something positive that day.
"Obviously you'd love to do it all the time, but you try to help the team some kind of way -- move a runner over, make a play on defense, get a timely hit. You want to make sure you do one thing to win a game every day."
Hairston was familiar with the Yankees from the outside, rattling off the names of Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte as the long-time members of the club he had played against in his 12-year career.
He said that upon arriving in the fold, Hairston was welcomed by the "old guard" right away, and sees an atmosphere that jells.
"I didn't really know what to expect when I first came over here, but this clubhouse is very, very loose," Hairston said. "Guys are having fun, they're very serious about winning, but at the same time they want to have fun doing it.
"We have different types of personalities, from Alex [Rodriguez] to Jeet, to [Nick] Swisher to [Johnny] Damon. It's a spectrum of guys and it meshes great."
Hairston remarked that, of all the teams he has played for, this is the first assemblage that has been expected to go deep into the postseason and bring home a championship. He is enjoying the refreshing landscape.
"Obviously there's pressure, but I think that's a good type of pressure," Hairston said. "You'd rather have pressure, knowing that you're a good ballclub and trying to win the World Series, than being 30 games out.
"We realize what's at stake, but we also realize we have a very talented team. Hopefully we can do something special together."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.