Notes: Matsui not slowing downOption of serving as designated hitter keeps left fielder steady
Matsui went 1-for-2 with an RBI single in Friday's 11-inning loss to the Tigers, walking three times, and he opened the scoring on Saturday night with a two-run double in the first inning off Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman. Excluding Saturday, he has hit safely in 43 of his last 47 games, over which span he is batting .358 with 15 home runs, 23 RBIs and 48 runs scored.
"I guess you can say that, in terms of hitting, I feel pretty good right now," Matsui said through an interpreter. "That's been holding, so to speak, probably contributing to the consistency. Physically, I feel pretty good, too."
Just a few precious hours after the Yankees finally departed Comerica Park early Saturday morning, Matsui was back in the lineup as the club's designated hitter for an evening contest against Detroit.
At least statistically, Matsui seems to have enjoyed having the option of serving as the Yankees' designated hitter on a more regular basis.
After each game, Matsui nearly always roams the clubhouse wearing large ice packs on each knee, and though he claims he is physically fine, Matsui has been a slightly better hitter on the days he is allowed to DH.
In 70 at-bats as a designated hitter entering play Saturday, Matsui was batting .329; in 370 at-bats as a left fielder, he was batting an even .300. Yet he claims that the innings spent resting on the bench has proved to be more of an adjustment than the numbers would indicate.
"In terms of the rhythm of being in the game, it's a little bit different," Matsui said. "It's much easier being in the outfield and being in the field all the time."
Though the Yankees have struggled on this road trip, Matsui has shouldered his share of the offensive load. Matsui is 7-for-16 on the trip and continues to rank second with the White Sox' Jermaine Dye and Detroit's Magglio Ordonez in home runs after the All-Star break with 12, just one behind teammate Alex Rodriguez.
"In all aspects, we're different," Matsui said of the team. "It just seems like all the pieces are fitting well together now. It just seemed like earlier in the season, it was very bumpy in all aspects of offense, defense and so forth. It seems like everything is more smooth."
Big bat on the bench: Jason Giambi has been kept out of the lineup for the first two games of the series at Detroit, although Yankees manager Joe Torre had a statistical reason on Saturday, wanting to work Johnny Damon into the lineup for his good career numbers against Bonderman (12-for-28, one home run).
Giambi, who missed two months with a left foot injury, knew that at-bats would be a tight squeeze even as he progressed through a rehab assignment. That advance warning has made bench duty easier to take for Giambi, who pinch-hit in the 11th inning on Friday but grounded out.
"I came off from injury early, which no one could have expected," Giambi said. "I knew that was going to be the situation. I'm just glad that I'm able to contribute and I'm healthy. I'm slowly getting back in the lineup, but the guys are playing well, and that's fun. I'm fine with it."
Late Night with the Yanks: With most of his roster permitted some length in reporting to Comerica Park on Saturday, Torre walked into the visitors' clubhouse wearing street clothes and surveyed the scene -- dozens of lockers and uniforms, but no players, just reporters.
"Who wants to play today?" Torre joked.
After a rain delay of four hours and one minute on Friday, the Yankees and Tigers endured an affair of four hours and 24 minutes, ending at 3:30 a.m. ET as Carlos Guillen touched home plate following a home run off left-hander Sean Henn. Later, with his real players in the clubhouse, Torre evaluated his team as tired but nearly equal with the Tigers.
"I'm sure they're beat up, but both sides had to experience the same thing," Torre said. "Except, you feel less tired when you win, there's no question. That's part of our job."
The Yankees closed the clubhouse to reporters 15 minutes early on Saturday so Torre could address the club, which had lost six of 10 games.
Mr. Zero: With a scoreless, hitless inning against Detroit on Friday, Yankees rookie right-hander Joba Chamberlain has now pitched the equivalent of a complete-game shutout in his brief Major League career.
In seven games for New York, Chamberlain has allowed just three hits in nine innings, walking two and striking out 15. Due to the organizational "Chamberlain Rules," the hurler is not available for relief on Saturday.
Bombers bits: Roger Clemens had a blister on the side of his right foot that demanded attention during Friday's start, Torre said. ... The manager said he planned to speak with Henn, who has had two games end on this road trip while he has been on the mound. Henn is expecting the birth of his first child in the near future and has "a lot of things going on," Torre said. ... General manager Brian Cashman inquired about stocking the Yankees with another pitcher from the Minor Leagues, Torre said, but the early-morning telephone offer was rejected.