Notes: Damon raring to go

Notes: Damon raring to go

NEW YORK -- Johnny Damon has played in 1,705 Major League games, and he has never spent a day on the disabled list. It would appear that his run of good fortune will continue.

The 33-year-old center fielder on Friday reported "massive improvement" in the strained right calf that has sidelined him for three days, rejoining the Yankees' early workouts before the evening contest against the Orioles.

A smile on his face and the spring slowly returning to his step, Damon said that he could be available for pinch-hitting duties on Friday, with possible starting duties on deck for the weekend series with Baltimore.

"It's feeling pretty good today," Damon said. "I'm definitely going to make myself available to the skipper if he needs me for anything. Hopefully, it keeps on improving, but there was massive improvement last night. I'm close to being ready."

Damon left Monday's Opening Day contest after just five innings, replaced by Melky Cabrera.

With two full days of rest following Tuesday's off-day and Wednesday's rainout, Damon had unsuccessfully lobbied to be used as a ninth-inning pinch-hitter in Thursday's game.

Manager Joe Torre declined, saying that he didn't think it was the best idea, and maintained that he would try to stay away from using Damon in that role against the Orioles. Torre said it remained a possibility, though.

"The fact that he was in the weight room, riding the bike, and [he] went out and did some light jogging, I think that's a good sign," Torre said. "I think we're headed in the right direction."

Either way, general manager Brian Cashman has ruled out a stint on the disabled list, saying that Damon will remain available to Torre but that the manager will need to be "careful" in using him.

The prospect of avoiding two weeks on the shelf restored Damon's perky nature after a couple of days in which his demeanor had appeared reserved.

Damon was far more fluid on Friday, working out in the weight room and swinging in the underground batting cages, where he said he felt no stress on the right calf.

"I'm just happy I could possibly go out there and help the team," he said. "Whether I'm in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, they know what kind of player I am. I know my body the best."

He said the fact that he has never being placed on the disabled list is a career note he has grown fond of.

"I think ... I've been very fortunate," he said. "I have been able to take care of my body over the years. The unfortunate thing is that when you start getting older, you start feeling a few aches and pains a little more. I can find a way to play."

Jeter's milestone surprise: Players don't always realize a milestone once they've reached it. Just ask Derek Jeter, who logged one on Thursday.

Jeter legged out an infield single in the seventh inning, giving him 2,153 hits for his career, tying him with Don Mattingly for sixth on the Yankees' all-time list. Devil Rays first baseman Ty Wigginton walked over to Jeter and offered words of praise.

"Honestly, I wasn't even aware of it until Wigginton said, 'Congratulations,' " Jeter said. "I didn't even see it on the scoreboard, so I was unaware of it."

The next Yankee in Jeter's sights is Joe DiMaggio, who leads Jeter by 61 hits. Following DiMaggio would be Bernie Williams. Jeter trails Williams by 183 hits and, considering he's had five 200-hit seasons, could pass him late this season in what would be a bittersweet moment.

Though the numbers don't mean much to the shortstop, being listed among the organization's great players is a source of pride.

"Any time you're on a list with guys like that, it makes you feel good," he said.

Ready to go: Less than 24 hours away from his Major League debut, Kei Igawa greeted about three dozen reporters in an auxiliary clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, saying that he was "very excited" but "not nervous."

Igawa, a 27-year-old left-hander, will throw his first pitches in the big leagues on Saturday afternoon against Baltimore, following up on a spring that started shaky and gained smoothness as the Grapefruit League schedule went along.

"I think in the early part of the spring, he was trying to make an impression," Torre said. "After two starts or so, he kind of settled in to get himself in shape and sharpen up what he does.

"He seems to be pretty calm. He gets out there and is pretty animated, and works fairly quickly."

Igawa noted that he watched Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka in his 10-strikeout Major League debut on Thursday, but wasn't surprised by the ace's dominance over the Royals.

"It's normal for him," Igawa said.

Catch this: Because of Tuesday's off-day and Wednesday's rainout, Jorge Posada is expected to catch both Friday's and Saturday's games against Baltimore, with his first rest day of the season slated for Sunday.

Understudy Wil Nieves is in line to receive right-hander Darrell Rasner on Sunday, a move that Torre said is preferable because Nieves caught Rasner last season at Triple-A.

Giving it a ride: The Yankees will hold a pregame ceremony on Saturday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Ferrari Motors. One of Ferrari's latest models, a 599 GTB Fiorano, will be driven onto the warning track behind home plate, where the Yankees will be presented with a Ferrari 60 relay baton.

"We believe that the New York Yankees are the heart and soul of baseball and a living symbol of America," said Ruggero Mango, of Ferrari North America.

To err is human: The Yankees made three errors in Thursday's game, marking the first time since 1926 that the club has committed three miscues in each of its first two games.

In that season, the Yankees did so in splitting a pair of contests at Boston's Fenway Park. The '26 Yankees went on to win 91 games before falling in a seven-game World Series to the Cardinals.

Coming up: The Yankees play the middle game of a three-game weekend series with the Orioles on Saturday. Igawa makes his Major League debut against veteran right-hander Steve Trachsel (15-8, 4.97 ERA in 2006), who will pitch his first American League game since 2000 after spending six years across town with the Mets. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Caleb Breakey, an associate reporter for, contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.