Notes: Who's on first?

Betemit makes 1B debut, but position puzzle about to become complicated
08/04/2007 3:04 PM ET
By Kit Stier / Special to

Jason Giambi's return will create a lineup logjam.(AP)
NEW YORK — Wilson Betemit, by virtue of his batting record against Kansas City starter Kyle Davies, on Saturday became the ninth Yankee to wear a first baseman's glove in a game this season.

Betemit, the middle infielder the Yankees acquired from the Dodgers in exchange for reliever Scott Proctor on Tuesday, will not become a fixture at first base. But he took the field 2-for-2 lifetime against Davies, who was acquired by the Royals from Atlanta on July 31, and both the hits were home runs. And the fact that Betemit didn't flinch when asked to start taking practice at first base encouraged Yankees manager Joe Torre.

"I didn't anticipate it yesterday," Torre said before the game, admitting he might have been "pushing the envelope" to put a player who had only played at second base, third base and shortstop at a new position. "He's an aggressive infielder and that's a plus. We'll keep an eye on positioning for him. We'll watch him and hopefully it works out for him."

First base, where Andy Phillips has filled in so capably as the main man since Doug Mientkiewicz was sidelined with wrist injury early June, is a spot that will demand attention in the days ahead. That's because slugger Jason Giambi, who homered and drew four walks in seven plate appearances in rehabilitation starts for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre on Friday, is close to a return to the Yankees. He's been disabled since June 1 with an injury to his left foot. Furthermore, Mientkiewicz is scheduled to leave for Tampa on Monday to begin his rehabilitation stint and it may not be long before he's able to rejoin the team.

Torre doesn't want to jump ahead and discuss what will happen when Giambi is ready to return. But the arrival of Giambi won't make decision-making easy for the manager.

"I don't know who it's going to impact," Torre said. "If he's in the game at first base or he's the DH, it's going to impact somebody. Until he gets back here physically for us I'm not going to deal with it.

"I think the tough part for us is making room for him because we don't have anybody on the roster who we don't want to have here."

Giambi, Mientkiewicz and Phillips have all been starters at first base this season. The Yankees have been very pleased with the way Phillips has performed both defensively and offensively. Giambi's injury has also enabled the Yankees to use center fielder Johnny Damon as their DH, a spot that helps the veteran to rest is sore legs. That's allowed Torre to install Melky Cabrera as the regular in center field. Damon plays in left at times to spell starter Hideki Matsui. Thus, Torre won't have as much flexibility at the DH spot when Giambi, primarily a DH at this stage of his career, returns.

Then there is Shelley Duncan, who has given his team and Yankees fans a spark since he arrived from Triple-A on July 20. Torre said the fact that Duncan is a right-handed hitter is a plus.

The manager was positive when asked how Giambi impacts a lineup. But there is no doubt the slow-footed slugger clogs up the bases when he's on one of them.

"He sort of neutralizes what you are trying to do on the base paths if he's on the base paths," Torre acknowledged. "But we have a couple of guys we don't run with anyway. Like Phillips, or someone like that." "The on-base-percentage [Giambi] brings to the table is important and the fact that he's a threat with the home run. Whoever hits in front of him figures to get some good pitches to hit. So he's a presence.

Torre said he'll adjust when the time comes.

"Normally what you do when you put a lineup out there is base your strategy around who is playing on your team," Torre said. "Jason has been a big player for a long time. And certainly I don't think he has hurt us offensively. Again, what he does for the rest of the year, it's a give and take situation."

Roster Moves: The Yankees made some moves to activate Saturday's starter Phil Hughes off the disabled list. Left-handed reliever Sean Henn was optioned back to Scranton. Pitcher Colter Bean, who was 2-0 with a 5.74 ERA at Triple-A was designated for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

The Plan Mientkiewicz said he'll start slowly at Tampa and build steam. He's to start hitting off a tee, move up to swinging at soft tosses, and then it'll be on to batting practice and finally games.

Kit Stier is a contributor to comments