Notes: Damon takes DH duties

Notes: Damon takes DH duties

BOSTON -- The corner locker usually reserved for Jason Giambi in Fenway Park's cramped visiting clubhouse was instead offered to Miguel Cairo on Friday, as the Yankees prepare for an immediate future without the slugger's presence.

The 36-year-old Giambi stayed behind in New York as the Yankees opened their fourth series of the year with the Red Sox, a torn plantar fascia muscle prompting doctors to encase his left foot in a protective guard and making his projected return date an unanswerable question at this time.

With Giambi shelved, the Yankees reconfigured the way they utilize their roster, with outfielder Johnny Damon drawing the lucky straw to allow his aching frame additional rest as the club's new everyday designated hitter.

"Obviously, playing the outfield on a regular basis has taken a toll on his legs," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "If that's always going to be the case, I don't know. But right now, we're going to deal with this. It certainly would help him play more often."

With Damon now limited many days to several at-bats off the bench, Torre said Melky Cabrera -- whom the manager believes provides the team with a spark of energy -- will be inserted as a regular outfielder, a role he thrived in when it was created by injuries last season.

"Maybe we can get [Damon] started as the offensive force that he is," Torre said.

Damon will have some company in the designated hitter role, a task he says he enjoys. Hideki Matsui is likely to score some additional at-bats as a DH, with rookie Kevin Thompson -- recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a roster move before Friday's game -- filling in from the outfield.

"It's been one of those years that we just have to keep fighting through," Damon said. "We have to find the mix of players to get the job done."

Torre also revealed that he plans to use catcher Jorge Posada -- tied for the American League batting lead entering Friday -- as a designated hitter for Saturday's matinee at Boston, thus allowing understudy Wil Nieves to work with right-hander Mike Mussina, a tandem that has provided positive results to date.

Damon said he hoped the shakeups would spark the Yankees' resurgence during a weekend that promised to be a whole lot more charged when the schedule-makers concocted it over the winter months.

Yankees Coverage
Jeter's late homer lifts Yanks
Yanks gear up for lesser opponents
Chamberlain springs curve on Sox
Notes: Peace of mind for Posada

Red Sox Coverage
Schilling's gem ends with loss
Bauman: Game mirrors Classic duel
Sox don't take lead for granted
Notes: Matsuzaka pushed back
Season Series
Yankees win 10-8
• 9/16: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
• 9/15: Red Sox 10,Yankees 1
• 9/14: Yankees 8, Red Sox 7
Previous season series
2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

Acknowledging the Yankees' 13 1/2-game deficit on first-place Boston, Damon said he believed the Red Sox fans were probably pretty happy with the Yankees' struggles, but said the team needed to come in and chip away at the gap.

"We need to have a really [great] June and just find a way to get closer to it," Damon said. "Being this far out, you're not going to see too many happy faces in here."

'Ha' no laughing matter: About one hour after Alex Rodriguez created national news by verbally interfering with a routine infield popup against the Blue Jays, Torre sat in the visiting manager's chair at Toronto's Rogers Centre and said he wasn't sure what to think of the third baseman's actions.

Given a couple of days to think about it, however, Torre decided he wasn't in favor of the tactics used by A-Rod in the ninth inning of Wednesday's Yankees victory. Rodriguez claims he shouted, "Ha," though the infielder, Toronto's Howie Clark, claims he heard Rodriguez yell, "Mine."

"It's probably something he shouldn't have done," Torre said. "But it's over with. What are you going to do? I don't sense he's going to do it again. I think just the reaction probably told him that."

Torre said he spoke with Rodriguez the other night about the incident and characterized the third baseman's reaction as "surprised" that his cries were met with such widespread reaction.

Call off the Bernie watch: Torre reached out to speak with former Yankee Bernie Williams during the club's off-day Thursday, but fans pining for the 38-year-old outfielder to ride into town needn't get excited.

Torre's phone call was simply to remind Williams about the manager's Safe at Home Dinner, which will honor the popular Yankee on Nov. 9.

General manager Brian Cashman reiterated that Williams is not an option to join the club, and Torre shot down the possibility of Williams' return as well, saying that Williams would have needed to have accepted the Yankees' non-roster invitation to Spring Training.

Hypothetically, Torre said that Williams would have needed 60 to 70 at-bats in the Minors and work his way into baseball shape before even thinking about playing in the big leagues.

"I'm sorry to say he didn't take advantage of the opportunity in Spring Training, when I tried to talk him into coming to Florida," Torre said. "He can't do it. I wish to [heck] it could be done, knowing Bernie. I'd love to have him on this team. Once he let that opportunity go by, I certainly never gave it another thought."

Here to help: Right-hander Chris Britton was summoned from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to offer additional relief if needed during the Red Sox series, but his time is limited. Britton will be optioned back to the Minors on Monday, when the club activates right-hander Roger Clemens for his start at Chicago.

Britton had earned the weekend trip to Fenway Park with impressive numbers at Triple-A. In 15 appearances, Britton had a 0.78 ERA and five saves, walking out nine and striking out 26 in 23 innings. He said he was told to work on increasing his stamina after being optioned by the Yankees on April 21.

"I can go a little longer in the games, more pitches," Britton said. "I got down there and did what I had to do, and they must have liked it, because I'm back up here."

In a corresponding move, the Yankees optioned right-hander Matt DeSalvo to Triple-A. The 26-year-old DeSalvo was 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five appearances (four starts) for New York.

"I've got to work on not rushing when guys are in scoring position," DeSalvo said. "That's the big thing. Each level you go up, there's a certain learning curve. Some guys just have outstanding stuff where they pick it up, and some guys just need time to learn and adjust."

Coming up: The Yankees play the second game of their weekend series with the Red Sox on Saturday, with Mussina (2-3, 5.86 ERA) making the start for New York. Right-hander Curt Schilling (5-2, 3.68 ERA) counters for Boston, with first pitch set for 3:55 p.m. on FOX.

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