David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Imagine your iPhone buzzes and a text comes in. It's from your agent. You've been claimed by the Yankees.
How would you react? Probably not much differently from the way Travis Ishikawa did Sunday morning.
"I didn't believe him at first," Ishikawa said.
Nope. Not until he called his agent back and asked, "Are you serious?"
The agent was. A few minutes later, Brian Cashman called. Ishikawa figured it must have been legit because of the New York area code. The first baseman, who lives in the Bay Area, said he doesn't have many friends from back here.
Always dreamed about playing for the Yankees? Don't turn your phone off. This season is the best shot you'll ever have. Recently DFA'ed? Asked for your unconditional release? Cashman will find you.
And as long as you make the red-eye flight, as Ishikawa did, bet on seeing your name in the next day's lineup. He could sense the urgency in Cashman's voice during their conversation.
"He sounded like he really wanted me here [last] night," Ishikawa said. "I guess in the back of my head I had a slight feeling."
Why did Cashman want Ishikawa so badly? Joe Girardi told the GM that Lyle Overbay could use a breather, and roughly 48 hours later, in walked Ishikawa, the fifth player to start at first base for the Yankees this year.
It was a forgettable debut. Ishikawa whiffed twice in two at-bats, looking awful in the process, before Girardi used Overbay to pinch hit for him in the seventh. Overbay homered for the Yankees' only run in a 5-1 loss to the Royals.
Where would the Yankees be without Overbay? Mark Teixeira spent a total of 14 games at first before season-ending wrist surgery. Kevin Youkilis, on the shelf after back surgery, made a half-dozen starts. Two others, David Adams and Curtis Joseph, account for the remaining pair.
Overbay, the guy who passes for the Yankees' everyday first baseman, is the clubhouse leader with 66 starts.
Cashman is giving new meaning to the term "taxi squad" this season. Bus, plane, private yacht, whatever. As they wait for help from Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson, the Yankees continue to rotate bodies through the Bronx, and Ishikawa's arrival upped the count to 43 in 89 games.
They used a total of 45 all last season, including only nine infielders. This year, the Yankees have needed six different players at third base alone, and that's not including Vernon Wells' emergency shift at Coors Field in early May.
"You get here, you play -- that's the bottom line," Girardi said. "We've acquired so many people during the course of the season out of need. When you do that, you need them to play."
Last night's lineup pushed that to the extreme. Zoilo Almonte batted second between Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano. After Ishikawa, here's what Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie had to look forward to: Luis Cruz (.222), Alberto Gonzalez (.207) and Austin Romine (.136).
It's not much to work with, but really, what choice do the Yankees have? There's plenty of time before the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline, but Cashman needs to get an idea of what Jeter and A-Rod can provide before making any move.
Girardi left open the possibility that Jeter could be back this weekend to close out the first half playing again in the Bronx, either at shortstop or DH.
For A-Rod, the Yankees are shooting for that post-break series (July 22-25) against the Rangers in Texas.
In the meantime, Cashman will do what he can to keep the Yankees afloat in a volatile American League East. It's likely to involve more phone calls.