- Last Updated: 12:03 PM, February 26, 2012
- Posted: 2:02 AM, February 26, 2012
TAMPA — Like a lot of other Phillies, Raul Ibanez was powerless to stop Johnny Damon from stealing second and third on the same play in Game 4 of the 2009 World Series, which the Yankees won.
Standing in left field as the play unfolded, Ibanez had a difficult time believing what he saw.
“It was unbelievable,’’ Ibanez said yesterday inside the George M. Steinbrenner Field clubhouse on the first day of full-squad workouts for the Yankees. “I was pointing and yelling and I was helpless. It was a great play by Johnny Damon.’’
Ibanez, not Damon, landed the Yankees’ left-handed hitting DH gig because the Yankees believe the 39-year-old Ibanez has more left defensively than Damon.
Until signing this past week, Ibanez had a sour taste in his mouth about the loss to the Yankees.
“I was still mad about the 2009 World Series loss,’’ Ibanez said. “Until a week ago.’’
Now Ibanez gets to chase his first World Series ring in his 17th season. And like so many others no matter their ages, Ibanez was excited jumping into the Yankees’ uniform.
“It’s amazing and it didn’t hit me until I pulled up to the stadium,’’ said Ibanez, who arrived Friday. “The pinstripes are a privilege. All the criteria I was looking for is here. A chance to win the World Series. It’s close to home, Philadelphia. And the opportunity to get at-bats.’’
Most 39 year-old players wouldn’t moan about a season in which they hit 20 homers and drove in 84 runs. Yet to Ibanez, 2011 wasn’t acceptable due to a .245 batting average that was 35 points south of his .280 career mark. His on-base percentage slipped to .289 (career .342), the slugging percentage dipped to .419 (career .471) and OPS was .707 (career) .813.
“It was not very good and something I want to put behind me,’’ said Ibanez, a teammate of Alex Rodriguez in Appleton (Single-A) in 1994 and with the Mariners from 1996 to 2000. “I want to eliminate the problems and the inconsistencies and move forward.’’
Ibanez, who was born in Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hospital and lived in The Bronx for a year before the family moved to Miami, has a long relationship with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long and bench coach Tony Pena from his Kansas City days.
Long was a hitting coach in the Royals’ system and Pena managed the Royals in 2002 and 2003 when Ibanez was the left fielder.
“Tony Pena gave me the opportunity to play,’’ Ibanez said. “If it wasn’t for Tony I wouldn’t be here.’’
Alex Rodriguez refused to get into the Ryan Braun situation.
“I don’t know any of the details or the facts,’’ Rodriguez said. “I would rather not comment on that. I will let the experts like you guys weigh in on that.’’
Mariano Rivera is scheduled to make his spring mound debut today.
Ivan Nova, Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos threw live batting practice yesterday morning and are in line to pitch against the Phillies who the Yankees play March 3, March 4 and March 5.
Catcher Austin Romine’s back problem isn’t improving.
“Backs are tricky. We will wait to see (today) but he could be out a while,’’ manager Joe Girardi said.
Girardi’s first-day message was simple.
“It was about why we are here and what our goals are and keep our goals in mind while doing their work and the importance of communicating between us,’’ Girardi said. “Keep in mind what we are [trying to win a World Series.]’’
Girardi doesn’t believe Mark Teixeira’s plan to bunt for hits from time to time is an admission the other team’s defensive shift was a success.
“I have no problem with it,’’ Girardi said of Teixeira bunting to avoid the shift when the Yankees need baserunners.