Andy Pettitte singles in the 5th, driving in a run,...

Andy Pettitte singles in the 5th, driving in a run, as the Philadelphia Phillies host the New York Yankees in game 3 of the World Series. (Oct. 31, 2009) Credit: Photo by Thomas A. Ferrara

With his pregame meeting with reporters over on the morning of June 5, Joe Girardi started to get up and said to no one in particular: "Exciting day today - pitchers' BP."

It was a bit of gallows humor from the Yankees' manager.

Before that afternoon's game in Toronto, A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin took their whacks and enjoyed doing so, with Hughes and Mitre each belting multiple home runs and Burnett, Sabathia and Gaudin going deep as well.

The swings from the pitchers have increased in recent weeks as the Yankees prepare for a six-game jaunt through Arizona and Los Angeles next week, a stretch in which they'll play by National League rules.

For much of the pitching staff, it brings excitement.

"I love it," said Sabathia, a proud hitter with a .266 career average and three homers. "This is my favorite part of the year."

Girardi, however, sees only a minefield, a feeling reinforced Sunday when Mitre strained his left oblique while taking batting practice. He woke up Monday feeling sore and landed on the disabled list that afternoon.

"That's the thing that managers in the American League don't like about interleague," Girardi said.

Girardi always has said his biggest concern is what might occur if pitchers reach base - Chien-Ming Wang, who suffered a sprained Lisfranc ligament and torn tendon in his right foot in 2008 and hasn't been the same since, is the most dramatic example - but Mitre's injury demonstrates that the potential for a fluke injury exists even before then.

"I know they [American League managers] hate it because National League pitchers are used to doing it day in and day out," said Mitre, who is 11-for-78 (.141) in his career. "I used to but I haven't done it on a consistent basis in a while, so it's just one of those things. What are you going to do? That's the first time it's happened to me. Ever. I've never had any problems swinging the bat."

Although Girardi largely detests having his pitchers pick up bats, they mostly echo Sabathia, whose smile is never so broad as when he's talking hitting. "I'm just glad to get a chance to go out there and hack," Sabathia said.

While Sabathia's power impresses his brethren, an informal poll of pitchers, and even some non-pitchers, tabbed Javier Vazquez as looking most like a hitter when swinging the bat. Vazquez has a .207 average and the most plate appearances (623) of anyone on the staff. Hughes got some votes as well.

The pitcher who might take the preparation to hit most earnestly, however, is Andy Pettitte. "I just look at it as very serious when we have to start to hit, to get ready for it, because it could help me win a game," he said.

Pettitte said the point was especially driven home during his three seasons with the Astros. It helped last postseason when he recorded his second career World Series hit in the Yankees' 8-5 victory over the Phillies in Game 3. His RBI single in a three-run fifth gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead.

"Being able to play in the National League, I realized how important it is," Pettitte said. "If I had to get a bunt down or something like that, to be able to do it, or even to be able to hopefully put the ball in play and maybe get lucky and get a hit like I did in the World Series, it's huge. I mean, if you just go up there and you're an automatic out all the time, it makes it that much easier for the pitcher."

A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: Newsday/Daddona / Pfost / Villa Loarca

Uncovering the truth about the chemical drums A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports.


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