DENVER (AP) -Jorge Posada started at first base for the first time in six years Tuesday night, and the Yankees recalled Andy Phillips from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as they designated Josh Phelps for assignment.
Posada, usually New York's starting catcher, took dozens of ground balls at first before the game. It was his 12th career start at first base and his first since June 25, 2001, according to Elias Sports Bureau. With the sun in his eyes, he wore sunglasses in the first inning and made a clean grab on Derek Jeter's throw following Willy Taveras' grounder to shortstop.
``I just wanted his bat in there,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ``And having played him there before, it's not to me as much of a gamble. The only thing we needed for him to do was be comfortable doing it. And he's convinced me he is.''
Torre also stuck with Melky Cabrera in center field because Johnny Damon continues to be bothered by an abdominal strain. Damon, also slowed by leg injuries, has been serving as the team's designated hitter in the absence of injured Jason Giambi but the Yankees can't use a DH in NL parks.
Torre also said left-hander Kei Igawa will be called up and face the Giants on Friday night in San Francisco. But playing at hitter-friendly Coors Field and with no DH, he was in no hurry to bring him up before then.
With Giambi's return uncertain and Doug Mientkiewicz ailing, the Yankees made the decision to cut Phelps, who was taken from Baltimore in the winter-meeting draft. If Phelps clears waivers, he must be offered back to the Baltimore Orioles.
Phillips will get the opportunity to play every day starting Wednesday night, Torre said.
Phillips hit .240 in 110 games for the Yankees last season and was making a push to break camp with the club this spring training when he missed time to be with his mother, Linda, who was critically injured in a car accident in Alabama on Feb. 28. She continues to recover.
His wife, Bethany, beat cancer last year, so his focus finally is returning to baseball.
Playing mostly second base and moving over to first a couple of times a week, Phillips hit .301 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with 11 doubles, 11 homers and 36 RBIs in 65 games this season.
All the while, he kept an eye on the Yankees' woes at first base and figured he could help.
``I haven't really looked at it like there's a problem here, a problem there,'' Phillips said. ``As a player, and when you have confidence in what you do, you always think you can help, whatever the situation is. Even if things are going good you think you can help.''
Phelps made the trip to Denver on Monday night, an indication that it was a difficult decision.
``Josh was struggling somewhat both offensively and defensively,'' said Torre, who made it clear that Phillips was going to get a long look at first base.
``I think we're going to put him out there sort of regularly, give him regular work, let's put it that way. I hate to nail myself down saying it's going to be every single day,'' Torre said. ``Let's wait and see. He's going to get an opportunity to play. He'll start over there at first base tomorrow night.''
If Phillips can show some pop at the plate to go with his good glove, the Yankees might not be in the mood to try to go searching for help via a trade.
``The thing is right now our defense is better. Offensively, we seem to be getting along pretty well with guys who can do little things at first base as opposed to having a guy who may hit a lot of home runs and strike out a lot. The personality of putting the ball in play is probably a nice mix with the other guys we have,'' Torre said.
``You know, if something comes along that seems to fit into what type of club we are, you're going to have to look at it, especially if it's someone with more experience ... which would give you a little more security going down the road. But I don't think it's a slam-dunk to have to do it.''
Damon, who injured an abdominal muscle last week, took batting practice in the cage but Torre told him not to take regular BP. Damon said he's in pain with every swing but was aching to return to the lineup.
``I'll be all right,'' he said, ``and so will our team.''
Torre would like to put him into the lineup Thursday to face Rodrigo Lopez.
Notes: Roger Clemens will make his third start for the Yankees on Thursday, when he tries for his 350th win, a mark not reached since Warren Spahn in 1963. He said it's not all about the numbers: ``It's been seven long years and there's still guys here that don't have a ring. They've made a lot of money but they don't have a ring. And I want them to have that feeling and to understand what it's like when you talk about really being a Yankee.''
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