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Old 06-05-2006, 06:30 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Jeter hurt as Yanks brace for Sox

Derek Jeter takes pitch to thumb in Yanks' 11-4 loss to Orioles but vows to play tonight against Boston.
Mike Mussina will try to give Yanks big shot in the arm tonight against rival Sox.
Josh Beckett looks to add to the Yankees' pain tonight at Stadium.

BALTIMORE — As Derek Jeter bent over and grabbed his right hand in pain yesterday, it was hard for Joe Torre not to wonder if he was watching the latest in what surely feels like an endless string of health-related catastrophes for the Yankees.

Fortunately for the Yanks, Jeter seemed to have avoided serious injury after being hit by a Rodrigo Lopez fastball in the sixth inning; X-rays were negative and Jeter, diagnosed with a bruised thumb, said he plans to play tonight against the Red Sox at the Stadium.

Of course, Jeter always says that so, the real question is whether Torre will let him. The manager appeared to give an indication of his preference — and the intensity of the Yanks-Red Sox rivalry — when he said, "Everyone seems to forget what's wrong with them when we play these guys."

The Yankees certainly hope so, though it's not like they've floundered during this rash of injuries and, more recently, illness. Despite losing yesterday, the Bombers have won seven of their last nine games as they've watched Gary Sheffield go on the disabled list again, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi get wracked by stomach flu, Jeter miss two games with a strained hand tendon (even before getting plunked yesterday) and Mariano Rivera get gripped by back spasms when he went to tie his shoes.

It's the sort of stretch that could send a team into an awful spiral, but the Yankees enter tonight's series just a half-game behind Boston for the top spot in the AL East. A year ago today the Yanks were six games out in the division race, and by the end of the year the Sox were lamenting having failed to put them away since the Bombers ultimately rallied to win it.

Have the Sox missed a chance to run away from the banged-up Yanks again?

"Perhaps," said Johnny Damon, who played four seasons in Boston before coming to the Bronx last winter. "But I don't think teams can run away from us. I think we've got a very good team and the sky's the limit for us. ... I actually think the rest of the league, and people who are watching, are looking at what we've been able to do recently and are saying, 'Wow.'"

Not yesterday they weren't, but the Bombers don't figure to spend much time thinking about how the Orioles roughed them up, 11-4, at the finish of an otherwise excellent 5-2 road trip. As Torre said, "We're as good as our next day's pitcher, we've got a good one going."

That would be Mike Mussina, who arrived in the clubhouse early yesterday morning without having had his coffee or even a donut. Thus, when the first round of Red Sox-related questions came his way, it was no surprise to see the righthander's shoulders slump a little as he sighed.

It will always be this way, of course. Even with the sellout crowds and constant chatter and extra juice that linger over every Yanks-Sox series, the players are determined to avoid being caught up in the hype; just because every encounter might feel like October, they might say, doesn't make it so.

Mussina, who has been the Yanks' ace this season at 7-1, faces Josh Beckett in a marquee matchup tonight that surely will generate plenty of buildup ... none of which interests Mussina.

"The public and everybody tries to play the games up and we try to play them down," he said. "We can't turn it up and play better just because it's the Red Sox. We go out and play our best baseball every day we step on the field — or at least we're trying to. Just because we're playing the Red Sox doesn't mean we're going to be at another level. If we get all hyped up and think it's the most spectacular thing ever, then we don't play as well."

Torre has been proud of how fill-ins like Melky Cabrera and Andy Phillips have contributed recently but admitted it was "scary" to ponder, even for a moment, a serious injury to Jeter, who has been "our MVP this year," according to Damon.

Jeter usually shakes off injuries quickly so Torre knew he was in some pain after getting hit. "We were fortunate," A-Rod said. "If it hit him on the front wrist it could have been much more serious."

In what might qualify as a bit of good luck for the Yanks these days, it didn't.

And after the initial agony subsided, Jeter's trademark demeanor returned.

"Yup," he said before a questioner could even finish asking if he'd be in the lineup against the Red Sox. "I'm sure (Torre is) going to want to see me swing and throw, but that's my plan."


Yankee woes keep growing yesterday with Derek Jeter's thumb injury:
Derek Jeter: bruised thumb (day-to-day)
Alex Rodriguez: stomach flu (day-to-day)
Jason Giambi: stomach flu (day-to-day)
Mariano Rivera: back spasms (expected to return tonight)
Jorge Posada: torn left hamstring tendon (can play)
Gary Sheffield: torn left wrist tendon (DL)
Hideki Matsui: broken left wrist (DL)
Shawn Chacon: bruised leg (made rehab start yesterday)

Originally published on June 5, 2006

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