New York Yankees vice president and assistant general manager, Jean...

New York Yankees vice president and assistant general manager, Jean Afterman, during spring training. (Feb. 29, 2008) Credit: Newday /Audrey C. Tiernan

BALTIMORE - Jean Afterman regretted the remark almost immediately and wanted to make something clear.

"I'm a huge supporter of the president," Afterman said in the clubhouse before last night's game against the Orioles. "I supported him since he announced his candidacy."

The Yankees' normally reserved assistant general manager elicited the most repeated quote from Monday's White House visit with a remark that came off as a bit of trash talking to the Commander in Chief, a staunch fan of the White Sox.

As the president stopped in front of the risers for a group picture and Joe Girardi brought the World Series trophy for the two to hold, Afterman's voice could be heard clearly in the packed East Room.

"Let him hold it," she said. "He may not get a chance again."

As the laughter died down, the president, with a confident smile indicative of a man used to getting the last word, did just that.

"And you wonder why the other teams don't root for you," he said.

Afterman's worry was that some might consider her comment - part of what she called "witty repartee with the leader of the free world" - would be considered political.

"My biggest concern was that it would be misinterpreted as a political statement," Afterman said. "I didn't want anybody to think that was some indication because I'll be out there stumping for him and voting for him and campaigning for him on his next campaign."

Afterman accompanied the World Series trophy to the office of Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor - a Bronx native Afterman called a "rock star."

Afterman, a good sport throughout her impromptu 12-minute pregame news conference, was asked her immediate feeling as the words left her mouth.

"Besides tremendous remorse?" she said. "It felt comfortable to say and then within a nanosecond, it was 'Oops.' "

Still Nicked

Nick Johnson missed his third straight game with lower back stiffness but did take batting practice. "I still feel it a little bit," Johnson said before BP. "But it won't hinder me at all."

Johnson, batting .135 with five RBIs, just changed his number to 36, his number during his first stint with the Yankees, from 26. "I'm not superstitious or anything," Johnson said.

Park in neutral

Chan Ho Park, on the 15-day DL with a hamstring strain, threw in Tampa and continued to feel tightness. "He's not progressing as well as we want," Girardi said.

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