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March 15, 2008: Duncan Donuts, and other Tampa tales

After all the sturm und drang of the previous two matchups between the Yankees and Rays (collision at the plate, catcher broken wrist, Duncan slid spikes high, bench-clearing brawl, suspensions levied, okay now you are caught up…), there was absolutely nothing to report about conflict or tension between the two teams at all.

Shelley Duncan, the player who landed at the center of the controversy after his slide into Rays 2B Akinori Iwamura, had the following to say after the game. “It was a normal baseball game. We could just play baseball.”

When asked if conversations at first base were any different than usual, he said no, there was just the usual “standard first base talk,” which led the writers to ask… so… what is standard first base talk?

“Oh, you know, I always say hi,” Duncan explained. “You know, if they walked, congratulations on your walk. That kind of stuff.”

And if the batter had been hit by pitch? “Where’d he get you? Was it a cutter? Does it hurt? Don’t rub it! Doooon’t rub it!”

Joe Girardi is different from Joe Torre. He rocks in his chair as he holds his daily postgame with the writers, and his office door is often closed… because he’s rarely in there. He is more likely to be sitting at a table in the coaches’ locker room, talking with them, than to be at his own desk. Where Joe Torre drank green tea, the Styrofoam cup on Girardi’s desk smells distinctly of sweet hazelnut. (I presume it’s coffee.) And this morning, as the writers were all leaving the clubhouse prior to batting practice, Joe called everyone into his office to show them something on his laptop. (If Joe Torre had a laptop, I don’t remember it.)

“Take a look at the weather forecast for Tuesday!” he enthused.

On the screen were the predictions for Blacksburg, VA, where the Yankees will play a game at Virginia Tech. “On like March 1st I said it would be 65 and sunny when we got there,” Girardi said, then pointed out one of the longtime writers. “You said it was going to be like thirty-nine.”

Another writer confirmed that both statements were true. The weather forecast is calling for 66 degrees and partly cloudy. “And that means partly sunny, right?”

Apparently I don’t even have to make one of those glass half-full analogies for Girardi’s outlook on success, because his sunny outlook is even better.

Mike Mussina is no longer alone. He’s the eminence grise of a whole club of pitchers who do crossword puzzles, now. This morning Moose, Billy Traber, and Daniel Giese (both non-roster invitees) all worked on a puzzle together. Traber held the pen. Giese also did a sudoku.

Traber was described by Joe Girardi today as “a very intriguing guy for us.” The non-roster invitee was added to the 40 man roster today. He is one of a passel of control pitchers invited to camp to try to make the bullpen (including Giese and Heath Phillips). Girardi described his former experience as a starter as valuable because “he developed all his pitches and he can get lefties and righties out.”

When asked about his improved status, Traber was happy but kept his emotions in check. “Me being healthy and being able to pitch is exciting, too,” he said, when asked how he felt about the move. “I’m pleased that I’m getting an opportunity to pitch and get innings in. I don’t want to get too caught up in the contract [technicalities]. I just play.”

Many of the Yankees’ staff members are still in touch with their cohort who went to the Dodgers with Joe Torre, including former bullpen catcher and BP pitcher Mike Borzello. Borzo is apparently on the current trip to China that the Dodgers are taking part in, the travel team being managed by Tommy Lasorda–and is coaching first base. In the first game they played, there was a close pickoff play at first, and Borzo got to witness firsthand a Lasorda Dodger-blue-in-the-face argument.


Overheard: “Okay, your job is to go into the gift shop, find this guy’s parents, bring them to the front desk and make sure they get passes and all taken care of for today’s game. Oh, and make sure they get 50% off in the gift shop.”


It’s hard not to notice that Jason Giambi’s beard stubble is quite gray. Especially since he still dresses like he’s 19.


Pitcher Darrell Rasner smelled something amiss. Very amiss. “Do you smell dog poo?” he asked a gaggle of writers standing nearby. Writers all checked their shoes… nothing. Rasner checked his locker… nothing. Someone was probably pranking someone but by the end of the day the joke had not come out. Later, Chien-Ming Wang and Kei Igawa, who locker right near Rasner, also expressed displeasure with the odor. Sadly, Igawa really stunk up the joint once he got on the mound.


More to come tomorrow and Monday, when we’ll see the Red Sox… or at least who of the Sox make the trip to Tampa and aren’t already packed to go to Japan.

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