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New York Times

 

March 31, 2005

Bubba sticks with Yanks

Plays too well for Bombers to send him to Triple-A

By Tyler Kepner

SARASOTA, FL Rickey Henderson is still available, presumably in great shape and ready to resume his career. The Yankees, to Bubba Crosby's relief, are not interested.

Henderson, a future Hall of Fame outfielder, represented the most deflating moment in Crosby's career. After six minor-league seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Crosby had finally learned how to hit. He was bruising the Pacific Coast League in the summer of 2003, and the Dodgers were desperate for hitting.

But instead of calling up Crosby, their former first-round pick, the Dodgers signed Henderson, who was 44 years old. Henderson batted .208. The Dodgers traded Crosby to the Yankees for Robin Ventura two weeks later, when he was batting .361 at Triple-A.

"Even though Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest baseball players ever, it was still, to me, kind of a slap in my face that I didn't get an opportunity," Crosby said. "I was a Dodger, and in that organization, that's all they talk about breeding young talent, moving through the organization. It was kind of like, what else do I need to do?"

Crosby never expected the Yankees, of all teams, to offer him a chance at the majors. He had a few days of service with Los Angeles, but it was nothing like last season, when he spent nearly every day with the Yankees. This week, he made their opening-day roster for the second year in a row.

At 28, Crosby is the youngest player on the team, and he will most likely get the least significant playing time. Over three months last summer, he played in 28 games without a hit, getting only 13 at-bats. His role occasional pinch-runner and defensive replacement was a struggle for someone eager to make an impression.

"Veterans normally do that job better than young players," manager Joe Torre said. "That's why we gave a serious look to Doug Glanville, because he had some experience. It's all psychological, the bench stuff."

Knowing that, Crosby tried to make sure he covered the physical aspect. He would report to the park more than four hours early, joining Tony Clark, a veteran, for extra hitting in the batting cage before every game.

Crosby had five stints on the major-league roster, but he had just 53 at-bats overall. Seeking more work, he played in Puerto Rico for two weeks in the off-season, then beat Glanville and Damian Rolls for the final roster spot. After going 0-for-2 in the Yankees' 5-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds yesterday, Crosby was hitting .333.

"There's no better feeling than when you go out there and work so hard and finally win the job, because it just shows that hard work pays off," Crosby said.

The Yankees know Crosby's skills, and they were comfortable bringing him back to pinch-run and play defense and get to bat occasionally. He has something uncommon for the Yankees.

"His young enthusiasm catches everybody's attention," Torre said.

Notes Ruben Sierra had a run-scoring triple and home run against the Reds.

...

In his final start of the spring, Carl Pavano allowed six hits and four runs in six innings, striking out five. "That's the best I've felt all spring," Pavano said. "The season's coming up, this was my last start. This is a good time to feel great. I've gotten better every start."

...

The Yankees expect Tony Womack and Jason Giambi back in the lineup today. Womack was hit on the left knee by a pitch Monday. Giambi has had a tight left hamstring.

...

Closer Mariano Rivera is scheduled to pitch two innings in a minor-league game today.