BOSTON - Matt Daley was in his apartment in Hoboken when he got the call. Mike Zagurski was at his in-laws' house in Atlanta. Brendan Ryan was in the home clubhouse at Safeco Field in Seattle, studying his fantasy football team's roster.
About the last place any of them expected to be Saturday was Fenway Park, wearing Yankees uniforms in the heat of a wild-card race. But Daley threw a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts, Zagurski was in the bullpen and Ryan started at shortstop instead of the injured Derek Jeter in the Yankees' 5-1 loss to the Red Sox.
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As the battered Yankees have tried to stay afloat in the playoff race, general manager Brian Cashman has had to resort to a rare tactic: adding players after the Aug. 31 deadline for playoff-roster eligibility and after the usual time for September call-ups.
Just as it seems as if a new player is injured every day -- on Saturday it was Alfonso Soriano, who was scratched minutes before game time with a sore right thumb -- the Yankees also have been adding a new player just about every day.
On Saturday, it was righthander David Phelps, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list. Outfielder Zoilo Almonte was activated Monday. Because those players were on the DL, they would be eligible for the postseason roster.
First, though, it was Daley, the Garden City product who pitched for the Yankees' Triple-A team and headed home after the minor-league season ended. Injuries in the bullpen forced the Yankees to add Daley on Sept. 6; after high-tailing it to Yankee Stadium, he threw a scoreless inning against the Red Sox about six hours after he got the call.
"Season ends, no call-up, so I go home, total offseason mode,'' said Daley, 31, who threw another scoreless inning Friday. "I had talked to my agent two days earlier and he said there's a chance that if something happens with the big-league team, you would be a guy considered. At that point, I knew I should probably keep throwing. I tossed that Thursday, and then on Friday, I was just sitting on the couch watching TV and he called me at 4 o'clock, my agent.''
Daley got his gear together and contemplated a rush-hour drive to Yankee Stadium.
"I was like, 'Where do I go? How do I get there? I've never been there before,' '' he said. "Just kind of grabbed some stuff, sat in rush-hour traffic over the GW, got to the Stadium at 6:15. I had no idea where I was going, plus everything was barricaded off. So I went up the street, made a U-turn and came back and yelled to the police officers across the street: 'I'm a player, I need to find the players' entrance, where do I go?' They were really nice. They believed me. Luckily.''
Veteran minor-leaguer Jim Miller was next. He got the call on Sept. 7 and pitched that afternoon. Miller, though, was designated for assignment four days later so the Yankees could make room for Ryan, who was acquired for a player to be named.
A day earlier, an injury to Boone Logan forced the Yankees to look for a lefthanded reliever. They signed Zagurski, 30, a 6-foot, 240-pound free agent who finished the season with the A's Triple-A team in Sacramento.
"I was at my in-laws' house just doing some family stuff,'' said Zagurski, who was with the Yankees' Triple-A team for two months this summer. "I don't know that it's super-common, but I was a free agent, so 30 teams could have called. I know that's not really realistic. I was keeping my arm in shape. The phone call was a little before 11. I flew out at 2:45 and was in Baltimore before 5 for the game. I had my glove and some cleats and threw them in a bag -- this bag.''
Ryan arrived on Wednesday in Baltimore after taking the red-eye from Seattle and was in the lineup against the Orioles that night.
"I didn't want to waste a minute,'' he said.
Good, because the Yankees didn't really have one to spare.