Notes: Torre appreciates support
Players' accolades reassure manager in stressful time
NEW YORK -- One day after most of the fallout from principal owner George Steinbrenner's comments to a New Jersey newspaper, Yankees manager Joe Torre said that he had appreciated votes of support and confidence from members of his clubhouse.
Most Yankees, asked about Steinbrenner's insistence that the club advance to the American League Championship Series, said that their focus remained on winning games in the ALDS.
"We all know the last thing we need at this point in time is a distraction of some kind," Torre said. "We all need to be solid. I'm sure not everybody wants me to come back and manage here, and it does hurt my feelings, because we have so many players.
"The only thing you want from the players is the ability to play together and care about what we do. I think that's what's going through this clubhouse right now."
Torre reiterated that he believes Steinbrenner, as the Boss, is entitled to say what he wants and to be as critical or complimentary as he deems necessary.
"There are times you have to swallow hard sometimes and feel that this is unfair a time or two," Torre said. "But in the big picture, you can't pick and choose the parts you want to keep. It's one package, and you have to deal with it."
Staked out by reporters following Game 3 on his way to a waiting automobile, Steinbrenner did not offer a detailed response to queries about his comments to the newspaper.
Going with glove: Torre shuffled his lineup slightly from the order that produced eight runs and 11 hits to force a Game 4, pulling Jason Giambi and inserting Doug Mientkiewicz at first base.
With sinkerballer Chien-Ming Wang on the mound and hoping to get Cleveland batters to pound ground balls into the infield, Torre said that defense was at a premium. Mientkiewicz is 0-for-5 in the ALDS but is a career .318 hitter in 19 at-bats against Cleveland starter Paul Byrd, including five hits in eight at-bats (.625) last season.
"We anticipate that Wang will be a ground-ball pitcher, and if that is the case, [Mientkiewicz] is a better defensive option for us at first base," Torre said. "That's the reason he's back in there. His numbers are pretty good against Byrd, but it's mainly to try to control the game somewhat, and hopefully we're in a position to do that."
Lefty on, at last: In the days leading up to the Yankees' ALDS roster announcements, Ron Villone's inclusion seemed a virtual certainty, as the allure of having a veteran left-hander in relief seemed to play right into Torre's well-voiced opinions and preferences.
So Villone, a 37-year-old southpaw, was stunned when he had been left off the 11-man staff going into the series against Cleveland, ostensibly replaced by Jose Veras or rookie Ross Ohlendorf. Villone was asked to continue traveling with the club and watch the games, just in case of injury.
But when Roger Clemens hobbled off the mound in the third inning of Game 3, Villone said he didn't consider the possibility that he would be added to the roster mid-series.
"I really didn't think a lot," Villone said. "Who knows? Roger could have made a miraculous recovery overnight. It could have been just a cramp. There's no expectations, except being prepared and being ready."
Torre summoned Villone on Monday and engaged the veteran in a brief conversation, telling him he was now on the team. Villone had a 4.25 ERA in 37 relief appearances for New York and said he would be prepared for whatever the Yankees asked.
"At this point, you've got to have everything and the kitchen sink," Villone said. "You've got to be ready for every situation. I've filled most roles that have been asked of me before, and that's what I'm about to do."
Bombers bits: Joba Chamberlain may be available for one inning in Game 4 after pitching two innings in Game 3. ... Villone was selected over options that included Chris Britton and Edwar Ramirez. Ian Kennedy, who was married on Saturday, has returned to Tampa, Fla., to continue throwing but is not physically ready for duty. ... Villone has retired Cleveland slugger Travis Hafner in all five of their meetings. ... Yankees postseason legend Reggie Jackson threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Monday night's game.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.