New York Yankees Beat
New York Yankees Beat:
By Bryan Hoch
Relief is coming to the Yankees bullpen, in both the figurative and literal sense of the word. Closer Mariano Rivera, on the shelf since August 15th with a right shoulder strain, successfully passed the litmus test of a 30-pitch batting practice session this week and is on schedule to return to active duty in time for the playoffs.
The eventual reappearance of Rivera (1-4, 2.85 ERA, 27 saves) into the Yankees bullpen will make them that much more of a formidable foe for the playoffs. Steve Karsay and Mike Stanton have been excellent in their relief roles while Rivera has been out, and Joe Torre has no reason to rush the hard-throwing righthander back into duty.
With the Yankees a lock to make it onto the October stage, look for Torre to treat Rivera tenderly until the big dance. Even then, Torre says that Rivera will be called upon to pitch the ninth innings only, and nothing more.
Brotherly Blows: This week's mini-scuffle between righthander Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and catcher Jorge Posada, in which Hernandez reportedly threw a punch, ruffled no feathers and may have actually increased the camaraderie in the Yankees clubhouse.
The dispute, which took place Saturday, is said to have arisen from a game last Wednesday in which Hernandez was called for a ball because he went to his fingers while on the mound. Hernandez apparently felt that Posada had been informed of the possible violation and didn't make a sufficient effort to vocalize them to his batterymate.
No matter, said Torre, who dismissed the incident as two players being "passionate" and stated that the matter was settled in house. He went on to describe Hernandez and Posada as good friends who also engaged in a shouting match a few years back in the visiting dugout at Cleveland's Jacobs Field, only to be spotted eating dinner together that same night at a local mall.
Rocket Fizzling: Maybe there was more to that Shawn Estes fastball than we'd all realized when it sailed behind the backside of righthander Roger Clemens.
Clemens, who turned 40 on Aug. 4, just hasn't been the same pitcher since his anticipated showdown with the Mets at Shea Stadium on June 15th. He came into that Saturday afternoon contest holding a record of 8-2 with a respectable 3.57 ERA, but since then, Clemens is just 4-4 with a bloated 5.47 ERA.
In addition, he has allowed five runs or more in five of his 13 starts since the Subway Series. That includes coughing up seven runs to both the AL East rival Blue Jays and Orioles, clubs with sub-.500 records.
Chasing History: The hits keep on coming for second baseman Alfonso Soriano, who is on the cusp of becoming just the fourth player in major league history - and the first at his position - to amass 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in the same season.
Of course, when you mention a 40-40 season and the Yankees in the same sentence, it calls to mind the words of the legendary Mickey Mantle. Back in 1989, when the national media was raving about Jose Canseco's pursuit of the milestone, Mantle scoffed.
"Heck, if I'd known it was such a big deal, I'd have done 40-40 a bunch of times," Mantle said. And 'The Mick' probably could have, if he'd set his mind to it. Mantle belted 40 homers in four different seasons over his career, but topped out at 24 attempted steals in 1959. That year, he was successful in 21 of those attempts.