A good day for Jorge during a rough year

Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees celebrates

Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees celebrates his fifth inning home run against the Colorado Rockies at Yankee Stadium. (June 26, 2011) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Anthony Rieber

Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998

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They cheered for Torre and they cheered for Bernie and they cheered for Tino, especially when he hit a home run in the Old-Timers' Day game.

One by one, the stars of the Yankees dynasty of 1996-2000 are becoming -- well, there's no nice way to say this -- old.

(With the exception of Mariano Rivera, of course, who looks as if he's going to be pitching until he's 50.)

With Derek Jeter rehabbing in Tampa and Andy Pettitte idling in Houston, Rivera and Jorge Posada were the only members of the Core Four at Sunday's 65th Yankees Old-Timers' Day.

After Rivera mowed down the Rockies with his usual brilliance -- striking out the side to save the Yankees' 6-4 win -- Posada stood at his locker and talked about his contributions to a perfect day in Yankeeland.

It started when he went behind the plate in full catcher's gear to receive the ceremonial first pitch from trainer Gene Monahan, who will retire after 49 years with the organization. It was the first time anyone can remember seeing him wearing the tools of ignorance this season.

"[Monahan] wanted me out there with gear on, cleats, everything," Posada said. "I said, 'You know, I don't have a mask.' He said, 'Go get one.' "

Posada, as you know, has been basically banned from catching by the Yankees in what likely will be his final season with the club. As emotional as he was because of the ceremony honoring Monahan -- Posada seemed to tear up as he spoke with reporters -- it probably didn't occur to Posada that this will be his last Old-Timers' Day, too. Until that day when he is introduced along with the other retired stars.

Posada has had to come to grips with his own mortality this season; it has not been smooth. He went to war with Yankees brass after refusing to play when he was put in the ninth slot in the order against the Red Sox, and it got plenty tense and plenty ugly.

Tellingly, the fans gave him a standing ovation when he returned after what could have been called "me-first" behavior.

After enduring a miserable slump in which he was demoted to platoon DH, Posada has been among the hottest Yankees. His home run off Rockies starter Juan Nicasio in the fifth inning followed Nick Swisher's two-run blast and brought the Yankees back from a 3-0 deficit. And with the score tied at 4, it was Posada's one-out walk in the seventh that led to the eventual winning run. After Posada reached second on an error, he was lifted for pinch runner Chris Dickerson, who scored on Eduardo Nuñez's single to left.

"It's good to contribute," Posada said. "I think the walk was more important later in the game."

He has been contributing quite a bit. He's up to .234 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs. In June, he's 22-for-56 (.393), and that includes a period of sporadic play because of interleague play. In his last 12 starts, Posada has 18 hits in 44 at-bats (.409).

Posada's dream scenario for the rest of the season probably includes being behind the plate when the Yankees win the World Series. But his realistic future hopes should include maintaining his lineup spot into October and hooking on with another team for 2012. As painful as it would be for Yankees fans to see him in another uniform, he has the right to continue his career as a catcher/DH if he chooses.

After that? Figure on Old-Timers' Day 2014 or so, Michael Kay or John Sterling will take the microphone and shout, "Welcome back, No. 20, Jorge Posada!"

And all of the ugliness of the first few months of this season will be long forgotten on another perfect day in Yankeeland.

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