Versatile Hairston already paying dividends for Yankees

Jerry Hairston Jr., hits a sacrifice fly against Jerry Hairston Jr., hits a sacrifice fly against the Chicago White Sox. Photo Credit: AP

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TORONTO - Jerry Hairston Jr. didn't quite make the same splash that Red Sox newcomer Victor Martinez did, but the newest Yankee still showed his potential value this past weekend.

The Yankees acquired Hairston from the Reds before the non-waivers trade deadline Friday to provide depth at several positions - he played everywhere but pitcher, catcher and first base for the Reds this season - and he started at two of those against the White Sox.

Hairston filled in for Johnny Damon in leftfield Saturday, then at third base for Alex Rodriguez, who was the designated hitter, on Sunday.

With yesterday's off day the buffer between a recently completed stretch of 17 straight games and a 16-straight stretch that begins Tuesday night against the Blue Jays - the start of a monster week that includes four games at the Stadium against the Red Sox - Hairston figures to get more opportunities. He certainly did nothing Saturday or Sunday to hurt those chances.

In an interview Friday, Brian Cashman called the acquisition of Hairston an example of "one of the small deals" the Yankees worked on before the trade deadline, but he didn't mean to diminish it. "We think it's an important deal," he said, noting Hairston's versatility and the "flexibility" he affords Joe Girardi.

Getting Hairston didn't solve the Yankees' biggest problem - help for the back end of their starting rotation - but he did his part to help the Yankees salvage one victory in four games in Chicago and head into this week still in first place.

Hairston went 1-for-3 with a walk, a run and an RBI Saturday, missing out on a second hit when Jorge Posada was forced at third on his bloop to leftfield that fell in front of Carlos Quentin.

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Then he played a key role in Sunday's 8-5 win. Hairston went 2-for-3, including a line-drive single over second baseman Chris Getz's head in the fifth that gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead. He also dropped a neat sacrifice bunt to move Melky Cabrera to third base in a two-run fourth.

Hairston also made two standout plays at third. With Hairston playing in to guard against the bunt, Scott Podsednik attempted to slash the ball by him in the first inning, but he made a lunging stop to his left and threw Podsednik out from his knees. In the second, Hairston made a clean stop on Quentin's ground smash, looked Paul Konerko back to second and threw Quentin out. Hairston also started a 5-4-3 double play on Quentin's grounder to end the sixth.

"He played great defense," Girardi said. "The plays that he made early on in the game were just great defensive plays. He just gives us so much flexibility with what we can do with him. He's a big piece for us."

Not that Hairston, 33, sees his role as anything more than spot duty . . . wherever and whenever. "Wherever they ask me to play, I just want to do my job as best I can," Hairston said. "I've been playing everywhere the past five years. I pride myself on that and I just want to do my small part to help this team win."

Notes & quotes: Catcher Jesus Montero, 19, considered the Yankees' top prospect, broke the middle finger on his glove (left) hand Saturday night catching for Double-A Trenton and will miss the rest of the season. Montero was elevated from Class A Tampa earlier in the season and was hitting .317 (.370 on-base percentage) with nine home runs and 33 games in 44 games with Trenton.

Saturday's loss was another in a long list of games in which Yankees outfielders, notably Cabrera and Nick Swisher, missed the cutoff man, allowing runners to take extra bases. Before Sunday's game, which was much cleaner from all standpoints, Girardi expressed some frustration.

"You can tell them and you can tell them and you can tell them, but you have to execute," he said. "Hit the cutoff man, that's the big thing, hit the cutoff man. When we've missed the cutoff man, they've taken extra bases, [so] don't miss the cutoff man. And they're told that. But they have to execute that."

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