09/18/11 2:47 PM ET
Posada likely won't catch Mo's 602nd save
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
"It's not something that we've done a lot," Girardi explained. "We've caught him one time, and the games are important right now. It's something that we can talk about, but I'm probably going to stick with our catchers. That's what I'm going to do."
Posada was signed by the Yankees the same year Rivera was (1990) and has played with the historic closer each of his 17 years in the big leagues. But the 40-year-old Posada has only spent six innings behind the plate this season -- all coming on Sept. 10, when he was pressed into service against the Angels.
Rivera tied Trevor Hoffman for the most saves in baseball history by pitching a perfect ninth inning during the Yankees' 7-6 win on Saturday. Since the Yanks lost, 3-0 on Sunday, Rivera now has a chance to get the saves record at Yankee Stadium, where his team will play an eight-game homestand beginning Monday.
"Yeah, I mean, that's exciting," Girardi said. "I think that's exciting for our fans, and hopefully he gets about five or six this week."
Long's grip suggestion has A-Rod pain free
TORONTO -- It was about halfway through Alex Rodriguez's soft-toss session on Friday when Kevin Long figured he had to do something. A-Rod wasn't generating any power through the zone because he kept banging his injured left thumb with his top hand, so the Yankees' hitting coach suggested something he never had before.
It may have saved whatever's left of A-Rod's season.
Long suggested to the Yankees' third baseman that he separate his hands by about an extra half-inch so that his top hand wouldn't keep hitting his ailing left thumb. To keep his hands apart, the Yankees' staff rolled up a half-inch of athletic tape to mark the separation.
Long can't think of any modern-day player that holds the bat like that, and though A-Rod's separation makes the new grip hardly noticeable, it does recall images of how players held the bat in baseball's earliest stages.
"It's definitely not a technique that I would suggest to anybody," Long said. "This was a special case. I told him to give it a shot, because the way he was swinging, he was obviously lacking power because of the pain he felt swinging. He tried it, and he said he felt comfortable with it."
A-Rod has called it a godsend.
Long doesn't feel it's generally a good idea to hold the bat like that, because when the hands are separated -- even as little as A-Rod's are -- hitters have a tendency to roll their top hand over their bottom hand, causing guys to pull the ball weakly and thus diminish their power. But A-Rod hit four balls out while trying it out in live batting practice on Friday, then went 2-for-4 with a critical three-run homer in Saturday's 7-6 win over the Blue Jays.
"It's just a tribute to how special he is," Long said. "And we need him. We need his bat. If we're going to win a championship, we need A-Rod to be swinging the bat well. This grip eliminates pain, and if he's pain free, he's going to hit."
A-Rod won't hit like this forever, but considering his thumb could be an issue the rest of this season, he'll probably need the unconventional grip the rest of the way through.
Romine, Montero getting themselves ready
TORONTO -- The first bus left the Yankees' team hotel and departed to Rogers Centre at about 9 a.m. ET on Sunday. Usually there aren't many players on that first bus, but there have been a couple of constants in recent weeks -- rookie catchers Jesus Montero and Austin Romine.
"When I get to be like him," Montero said while pointing at veteran pitcher A.J. Burnett, sitting on the leather couch next to his locker, "I can get here a little late. But I'm a rookie, and I just want to work."
And the Yankees need him to.
With Francisco Cervelli experiencing concussion symptoms, and an injury like that being so dangerous and unpredictable, there's a good chance the Yankees will be depending on Montero and Romine as their backup catchers for the rest of the season and possibly into the playoffs.
Manager Joe Girardi has already prepared himself for that possibility. And Romine and Montero have prepared by poring over their scouting binders and trying to soak up as much knowledge about the Yankees' pitching staff as possible.
"I need to know what we need to do and how to pitch certain guys," Romine said. "Being the young guy, I want them to know that I take this seriously and that I care deeply about our pitchers throwing well."
Montero (who started as the designated hitter on Saturday) is the better hitter of the two, and Romine (who made his first start behind the plate that day) is regarded the better defender.
If Russell Martin is healthy -- and Girardi said Martin hasn't had any issues with his right thumb recently -- he'd catch the majority of the remaining regular-season games and every single postseason contest. But the Yankees, of course, need a backup plan.
And Girardi isn't locked in on one of the two right now.
"[It's] just something we kind of look at on a daily basis," he said. "Russell is going to catch a lot, but we'll just continue to look at it."
Entering Sunday, Montero had appeared in nine games as a DH and one as a catcher, batting .282 with three homers and six RBIs. Romine's two appearances, meanwhile, were as a catcher, a span that saw him go 1-for-7.
Montero would figure to be in the Yankees' postseason plans because of his bat. But if Cervelli -- on the disabled list retroactive to Sept. 9 -- continues to be out, there's a chance both would make the Yankees' postseason roster.
"I don't know what's going to happen in the playoffs," Montero said. "I hope to be with the team. I'm hoping, like whenever they give me an opportunity, however I can help, I'll be here. It's going to be the best to be in the playoffs."
"I really haven't [thought about being on the postseason roster]," Romine added. "I've got so much stuff going on right now, and if that happens, that would be another amazing thing going on in my life. But for right now, I have to worry about getting through [the next game] and showing that I can catch; that I belong here and that I can do it."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.