The evidence of Jorge Posada's first game back at catcher lay next to his locker after the Yankees' 9-5 victory. Neatly packed inside an oversized blue bag were his used mask, helmet, shin pads and chest protector, equipment that he had just worn in a game for the first time in four weeks.
Posada was back where he wanted to be Sunday, behind the plate calling signs for Phil Hughes and a host of Yankees relievers. And he marked the return to his defensive position with a highly productive offensive game highlighted by his second grand slam in as many games.
The last Yankee to accomplish such a feat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was Bill Dickey nearly 73 years ago. "Wow, another catcher," Posada said after hearing the name. "That's pretty special."
But there's still concern over Posada's right foot, which suffered a hairline fracture May 17. He left yesterday's game an inning early after admitting to manager Joe Girardi that his foot was sore. That Girardi said he's "a little concerned" raises a flag.
Posada insisted he's not worried. "It's just probably tired," he said. "I haven't caught in a while. It's just soreness in the overall foot, to tell you the truth. It's not in a spot that got hit. I've just got to keep an eye on it."
So do the Yankees, who rightfully value Posada's bat a lot more than they value his defensive presence. Not that the Yankees needed a reminder of how productive Posada remains on offense, but they definitely got one this weekend.
One day after snapping a tie at 2 with a grand slam, Posada walked to the plate in the fifth inning Sunday in a similar situation. With the Yankees ahead 3-1, the bases were loaded and there were two outs. But the veteran hitter that he is, hitting another grand slam wasn't on his mind.
"You can't really think about it," Posada said. "You've got two outs and you're just trying to get in position to hit the ball hard. And I think I did by not swinging at his first two pitches that were balls."
Young hitters could get a lesson in the art of working the count simply from watching Posada's patient approach at the plate.
With a 2-and-0 count and nowhere on the bases to put Posada, the pressure was on Astros pitcher Casey Daigle to throw a strike. He did, and Posada took advantage, launching an 87-mph fastball into the rightfield stands for another grand slam.
In addition to his slam, Posada walked twice and saw a total of 30 pitches Sunday, the most of any Yankee.
That's why Girardi plans to use Posada as the designated hitter a lot in the coming weeks and months, because his bat is just too valuable to risk losing for any extended period of time. Posada, however, takes enormous pride in being a catcher, which is what has made this last month so tough on him. It probably won't get any easier for him, either.
"It's what he loves to do," Girardi said. "When something is taken away for a while, whether it's an injury or whatever it's from, it's hard."
But Sunday, for one day, Posada was finally the Yankees catcher again, and he loved every bit of it.
"A lot of the players were getting on me, telling me where to go and stuff like that," he said with a laugh. "It was fun to be back there again."
When will he back there again? Maybe Tuesday night, or maybe not again for a week or two.
As tough as that might be on Posada, it's the best thing for the Yankees. And the people making the decisions know it.