Don Zimmer remembered fondly by Joe Girardi and Derek Jeter

Tampa Bay Rays coach Don Zimmer, left, and

Tampa Bay Rays coach Don Zimmer, left, and Yankees manage Joe Girardi look on during batting practice before a game at Yankee Stadium on May 20, 2010. (Credit: Newsday / Christopher Pasatieri)

The Yankees lost a game Wednesday night, 7-4, to the Oakland A's at the Stadium. It was their fourth defeat in a row and dropped them to 29-29.

During the game, the players and manager Joe Girardi learned of the death of former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer.

After the game, an emotional Girardi and Derek Jeter talked about the man who meant so much to both of them.

Zimmer was Girardi's first manager in the big leagues with the Cubs, was a coach when Girardi was with the Rockies and recommended that the Yankees acquire Girardi before the 1996 season.

"Great baseball man," Girardi said. "Baseball lifer. He was a mentor to me and I had him 10 out of my first 11 years in the big leagues. So wherever he went I went. I always thought he looked like my grandfather -- build a lot alike, same height, same forearms. My grandfather had a full head of white hair, though. That was probably the biggest difference.

"He taught me a lot about this game. Close friend, and I'm gonna miss him."

Jeter and his family also had a special relationship with Zimmer, who was 83 when he passed away Wednesday at a Florida rehab center. Jeter used to rub Zimmer's bald head for luck before games.

"It's a tough one to swallow," Jeter said. "Everyone knows how much Zim's meant to our organization, but [also] to baseball as a whole and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. It's tough news and I'll miss him."

Zimmer, who still worked as a senior adviser for the Rays, would visit with the Yankees when they played at Tampa Bay.

"It's going to be really strange not to see him," said Girardi, who said he last talked to Zimmer before he had heart surgery in April.

The news came in the middle innings, Jeter said. The Yankees still had a game to play, but they were not able to overcome another poor performance by the bullpen after taking a 4-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI single by Jeter and a three-run home run by Jacoby Ellsbury.

The evening started with a shake-up in the back of the bullpen. Gone were Alfredo Aceves and Preston Claiborne. In were Wade LeBlanc and Jose Ramirez.

Girardi pulled Vidal Nuño after 92 pitches with a 4-2 lead in the fifth. But Matt Daley and Matt Thornton allowed the A's to tie the score in the sixth (with Jeter making a key error) and Ramirez gave up the go-ahead run on a Josh Donaldson home run in the seventh.

Even LeBlanc got into the act, allowing a pair of runs in the ninth as the relievers gave up five runs (four earned) in 4 1/3 innings and the offense went cold after the third.

The Yankees watched David Robertson (Sunday) and Dellin Betances (Tuesday) fail to hold leads in losses. Also, Aceves gave up four runs to the Mariners in a 10-2 loss on Monday.

Wednesday night, Yoenis Cespedes hit two solo home runs for the A's as the Yankees dropped their fifth in six games.

"They're all tough when you're struggling," Girardi said. "They're all tough."

Some losses, though, are tougher than others.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Baseball videos

advertisement | advertise on newsday