Notes: Matsui's streak alive

Yankees notes: Matsui's streak alive

NEW YORK -- A sprained right ankle was not enough to hold Hideki Matsui out of the Yankees lineup on Tuesday, allowing the ironman's consecutive games streak to stretch another day.

Playing in his 1,637th consecutive professional game Sunday -- the 387th with the Yankees -- Matsui slipped and fell chasing a double in St. Louis and had to be helped off the field by manager Joe Torre and trainer Gene Monahan, raising doubts about the outfielder's availability for Tuesday's game.

Those questions persisted into the early afternoon on Tuesday, with the Yankees apparently unsure of how to handle the situation. Torre's first lineup card of the afternoon slotted the No. 5 hole as a designated hitter with the first initials 'M.A.', but the rest of the name was whited out -- subject to change, or so it would seem.

"I think the decision is [going to be] based on the fact we don't want to hurt it more," Matsui said at the time. "We're taking the safe approach."

However, after a solid batting practice session and brief baserunning drills, Matsui was able to sell Joe Torre on the health of his ankle, telling the manager he simply felt "OK."

"His priority is what's best for the team," Torre said. "He certainly understands if the injury becomes worse and he misses three or four weeks, that can't be a plus for us."

While the international streak garnered headlines and attention, especially from the Japanese press, Matsui continued to show a team-first attitude. He downplayed the streak, which carried over with Matsui from the Yomiuri Giants in 2003, saying that production was the most important thing.

"I take pride in playing each and every game to contribute, and be a strength to the team," Matsui said. "I'm not thinking about my streak right now. I don't want to go out there and be a problem for my team and not contribute."

Matsui had no problem contributing on Tuesday. He blasted the first pitch he saw in the second inning over the wall in right-center for his fifth home run of the season, and finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored. He was removed for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning.

Matsui said that during the course of his streak, he has played through a number of similar injuries to the sprained ankle. "I've had worse," he admitted.

In fact, Matsui estimated that he has taken his swings with "two or three" sprained ankles just like this one over the years, piled in with the usual strained obliques, bone bruises and whatever other speed bumps you could imagine.

"I wasn't really thinking whether I'd play or not," Matsui said. "All I thought of was whatever I needed to do to get better."

"I'm sure he wakes up every morning without even considering not playing," Torre said. "That's pretty special."

New stadium on the horizon: The Yankees have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, in which the team -- joined by Governor George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city and state officials -- will announce the plans for the building of a new Yankee Stadium.

The announcement follows a similar one late last week from the Mets, who have leapfrogged the city's waning efforts at luring the 2012 Olympic Games into a plan to replace Shea Stadium in time for the 2009 season.

Likewise, it is believed that a new Yankee Stadium facility could be prepared in time for the first pitch of 2009. The Yankees will unveil further details and renderings of the stadium on Wednesday.

History calls: With the Yankees gearing up for a 13-game homestand, history lessons might not be the top priority in the clubhouse. Still, they're in for a reminder of baseball's past with the Pittsburgh Pirates in town.

The last time the Yankees faced Pittsburgh, it was in the 1960 World Series, a series that will be remembered in Yankee lore for a crushing defeat that still stings some to this day.

Bucs shortstop Bill Mazeroski blasted a memorable Game 7 home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, sending the Yankees home from Forbes Field with just an American League title in hand. The home run arguably may have tipped the scales in Mazeroski's Hall of Fame bid.

"It was quite a memorable World Series," said Torre, who watched the games after just having completed a two-game rookie stint with the Milwaukee Braves. "You never took anything for granted."

With two of baseball's most established uniforms meeting on the playing field this week, the focus of the series extends well beyond simple nostalgia. The Yankees feel as though they need this stretch of games to "get right," in Derek Jeter's words, and overcome a slow start that sees the team enter Tuesday's action two games under .500 at 30-32.

"We've been gone for a while," Jeter said. "It's nice to be here, but we've still got to play good whether we're at home or on the road."

Torre bristled when a reporter characterized the extended homestand as a make-or-break point for the season.

"If for some reason we don't do well, what do we do? Go home?" Torre said. "We've got games to play."

Sanchez disabled: Before Tuesday's game, the Yankees placed infielder Rey Sanchez on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 10, and recalled infielder Andy Phillips from Triple-A Columbus.

Sanchez, 37, had been nagged by a pair of bulging cervical discs in his neck. Torre said that treatment could help alleviate some of the discomfort the veteran infielder -- batting .279 (12-for-43) in 23 games this year -- has been feeling. Otherwise, surgery looms as a possibility.

"It's been bothering him for a couple of weeks now," Torre said. "Hopefully, rest will do it. You don't even want to think the next step."

This is Phillips' third tour of duty with the Yankees this season. The 28-year-old is hitting .156 (5-for-32) with a home run and four RBIs in the Majors. At Columbus, Phillips was hitting .337 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs in 25 games.

On deck: The Yankees and Pirates play the second game of a three-game series at the Stadium on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET, with Kevin Brown (4-6, 5.43 ERA) taking on Bucs left-hander Mark Redman (4-4, 2.80 ERA).

Bryan Hoch is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.