Notes: Matsui rising from slump

Notes: Matsui rising from slump

NEW YORK -- When the Yankees began their road trip last week, all eyes were on the slumping Jason Giambi. But Giambi wasn't the only scuffling member of the team's offense, as Hideki Matsui was mired in a terrible skid, one which had lowered his batting average all the way to .235.

But like Giambi, Matsui has picked up his game in the past week, collecting 12 hits in his last 29 at-bats to boost his average to .265.

"He's getting better," said manager Joe Torre. "He's almost there for me. He's staying in a little more. The only thing wrong was that he was flying open, but he's a little more patient right now."

Matsui went 2-for-5 with two runs scored, two RBIs and his first stolen base of the season Friday night in the Yankees' 5-2 win over the Mets. During this recent stretch, Matsui has driven in six runs and doubled five times, but remains stuck in the longest homerless streak of his career, having gone 150 at-bats without hitting one out of the park.

"I have a feeling that he's asked that question every day," said Torre when asked whether the homerless streak may be bothering Matsui. "He's only human, even though he seems a little robotic at times. I'm sure it's in his mind."

During his 10 years in Japan, the longest homerless skid of Matsui's career was 103 plate appearances. His current streak is 171 plate appearances. Torre believes that when Matsui starts driving the ball to the opposite field, the homers will come naturally for him.

Sheff scratched: Gary Sheffield was removed from the Yankees' lineup shortly before Saturday's game with what the team called soreness in his left hand.

According to a team spokesman, the soreness made it difficult for Sheffield to grip a bat.

Bernie Williams was inserted into the lineup for the Yanks, batting third and playing center field. Matsui, who was penciled in to play center, was moved to right field. It is the first time in his Major League career that Matsui played in right field, though he did play there in Japan.

Signs of the times: The Yankees held a meeting before Saturday's game to change some of their signs, as former pinstripers Miguel Cairo and Willie Randolph may have been picking up on some signs during Friday night's game.

Bad day at work: Derek Jeter had one of the worst games of his career Friday, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and committing two errors in the fourth inning alone.

Jeter, who hadn't been charged with two errors in a game since September 2002, said after the game that the sloppy play was a little easier to take because his team came away with a victory.

"You don't see many of those, the combination of errors and strikeouts," Torre said of Jeter. "The good news is that we won. The other good news is that this stuff doesn't carry over with him."

Rotation ready: Torre set his rotation for the coming week, tabbing Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang and Kevin Brown to start the three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

Wednesday's start will mark the return to the rotation for Wang, the young right-handed rookie who was skipped during this turn as a result of off-days.

The way things set up, the Yankees will send Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano and Mussina to the hill next weekend against the Red Sox, as Boston visits the Bronx for a three-game series.

On deck: The Yankees and Mets close out the first installment of this year's Subway Series on Sunday, as Pavano takes on Pedro Martinez. This will be the first time the Yankees will see Martinez, their old rival with the Red Sox, in a Mets uniform.

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.