Notes: Cold keeps Damon on bench

Notes: Cold keeps Damon on bench

NEW YORK -- Johnny Damon left for Yankee Stadium on Sunday morning believing that he would be in the lineup against the Baltimore Orioles.

Joe Torre had thoughts along the same lines, but the manager reached a late decision upon further review to scratch the center fielder.

Torre said that he had thought back to the second inning of Saturday's game, when Hideki Matsui sustained what has been termed a mild strain of his left hamstring running out a ground ball.

Citing the fact that Matsui never seemed to take a misstep as he made his 90-foot dash, Torre could only come to the conclusion that the chilly conditions -- Kei Igawa's first pitch was thrown with the temperature recorded at 39 degrees -- had been a major contributing factor to the injury.

"The weather is the only excuse I can give you for that one," Torre said.

Damon was informed of the lineup switch as he dressed for Sunday's game, preparing to take indoor batting practice about 90 minutes before the scheduled first pitch. Though he was caught by surprise, Damon grasped the logic behind Torre's decision.

"I understand," Damon said. "Joe does not want any more guys to get hurt."

Instead, Damon -- who has been battling a strained right calf, an injury sustained in Monday's season opener -- will remain available as a pinch-hitter and late-inning defensive replacement. He could return to action on Monday at Minnesota.

"It's great having the coaches and manager here who have played and understand the cold," Damon said. "It makes everything so much easier for us."

Damon said that the Metrodome's artificial turf would not be a major concern, and he looked forward to shagging fly balls and attempting to get ready for three games.

The climate-controlled atmosphere would be a welcome change for Damon, who has been openly critical of the scheduling decision to have such teams as the Yankees open their seasons in what are typically cooler climates.

"We just need to get to warmer weather," he said. "I cannot stress that enough. I sure hope next year we don't start here [in New York] until April 15 or so. ... There's no reason why there should be games in Cleveland and Chicago. It's crazy. And unfortunately, guys have to brave this cold weather."

Infielder out: With Damon scratched, Torre assigned utilityman Miguel Cairo to start in left field for Sunday's contest.

Cairo entered to replace Matsui on Saturday and is generally considered the Yankees' emergency fifth outfielder. Cairo made one start in left field last season and appeared there in Spring Training, though the results weren't pretty.

In a March 19 game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., Cairo misplayed a handful of wind-blown fly balls as fifth starter candidate Jeff Karstens had his first shaky outing of the Grapefruit League campaign.

Cairo said that he felt he'd received enough work in Spring Training to get the job done in left field.

"Of course," Cairo said. "I'm ready. I come ready to play every day."

Even though Torre said that Cairo's defense wouldn't supplant that of any of the regulars, he said it would be passable.

"He's a pro," Torre said. "We're pretty comfortable he knows what he's doing."

Making history: Alex Rodriguez's game-winning grand slam on Saturday made him just the third player in Major League history to accomplish that feat three times. Rodriguez joined the St. Louis Browns' Vern Stephens (1946, '49, '50) and the Phillies' Cy Williams (1924 and twice in '26).

Rodriguez hit his other walk-off grand slams for the Rangers (July 27, 2002, against the A's) and on July 31, 2003, against the Red Sox.

Injury updates: Torre said that right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (strained right hamstring) threw 45 to 50 pitches off a mound earlier this week.

Wang has been in contact with pitching coach Ron Guidry, who has told the hurler to expect to make at least two rehab starts as he works toward a projected late-April reunion with the Yankees' Major League rotation.

Karstens (right elbow tendinitis) is closer to rejoining the squad, as he is eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday. Karstens threw batting practice on Saturday in Tampa, Fla., and Torre said that he could expect game action soon.

Coming up: The Yankees head to Minnesota for their first road trip of the young campaign, taking on the Twins on Monday in a 7:05 p.m. ET start at the Metrodome. Opening Day starter Carl Pavano (0-0, 8.31 ERA) makes his second appearance of the year, opposed by right-hander Sidney Ponson (4-5, 6.25 ERA in 2006), who pitched briefly for the Yankees last season and will be making his season debut.

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