After getting their man on the second try, the Yankees have been happy to see their scouting pay off. The 25-year-old has driven in 15 runs through his first 34 at-bats and, as a bonus, has taken well to first base. He earned another start on Wednesday.
"We know what he has," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "We know he has the ability to get your attention as a hitter. He's gotten some big hits for us in the few times that he's played. I think he's a real plus for this organization."
Betemit's 13th home run of the year -- and third as a Yankee -- came in the ninth inning Tuesday, with an 18-9 blowout loss at Angel Stadium reaching conclusion. The swings meant little in the course of the outcome, but the Yankees have had to find ways to keep Betemit sharp -- an effort he has been pleasantly surprised by.
Coming over from the Dodgers on July 31, Betemit said he was unsure of how much playing time the Yankees would be able to offer him, especially since his primary position -- third base -- was manned by All-Star Alex Rodriguez, in the midst of a banner season.
"I didn't [know] how much time I would play here," Betemit said. "But I've been playing almost three times a week. To get that much playing time in here, I didn't know that. I knew I wouldn't play every day because they've got guys like A-Rod and Derek Jeter. Those guys have to play every day."
But Betemit has found opportunities at first base, joining a heavily populated mix that continues to include Andy Phillips as well as occasional appearances by Jason Giambi and Shelley Duncan. Torre pointed out that Betemit has been among the more frequent workers in early batting practice, practicing and moving about the bag.
"Right now, I know it's much better," Betemit said. "It feels good. I'm doing it right now, and that's what I have to do -- go out there and swing my bat, play my defense and play hard."
That ethic is serving to help his versatility in what could progress to be a true utility role or even a starting slot down the road. Already, Betemit has played five positions as a Yankee, including two of them for the first time in the big leagues -- first base and left field.
"He can do a lot of things and he's not afraid to work," Torre said. "We've had him out here. He feels he needs to learn and he has to do it. It's nice to have that attitude to go along with the fact that he's going to be part of this organization's future."
Give it an A-Rest: Torre had toyed with the idea of benching Rodriguez for the series finale against the Angels on Wednesday, citing that his energy appeared to be dragging, but three home runs in two games here reversed that in a hurry.
"It was just something we played with and never really made a decision on," Torre said.
Torre said that the Yankees' off-day Thursday could suffice for Rodriguez, who led the Major Leagues with 42 home runs entering Wednesday. Having already lost the first two games against the Angels, the Yankees need their heavy hitters for the potential playoff run.
Checking in: Mike Mussina called his start Tuesday "awful," allowing seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, and Torre checked in with the right-hander the day after to make sure there were no further developments that needed attention.
Torre said he ascertained that the right-hander had two good bullpen sessions leading into his two poor starts, leading the Yankees to believe that injury is not the issue.
"His arm feels so good," Torre said. "That's what's so frustrating for him. He doesn't remember the last time he's ever walked two guys in a row in the first inning."
Mussina will have another start on Monday and, leading up to it, the club will watch his side sessions closely to place the root of the problem.
"He knows the game he pitched yesterday; we need better than that," Torre said. "He's not ignoring that fact. Hopefully the extra day [of rest] does something for him and he can be more of the guy that we think he could be."
Bullet boy: Left-hander Sean Henn helped save the Yankees' bullpen for Wednesday night, soaking up three innings on an evening when he originally wasn't even supposed to pitch after getting up three times on Monday.
Though Torre credited Henn with "taking a bullet," Henn shrugged off the credit. The five runs the Angels scored off Henn on Tuesday likely took some of the shine away.
"Somebody's going to have to do it," Henn said. "I'm here to pitch. Anytime they ask me if I want to go another one (inning), I'm going to say yes, unless I just can't."
With Mussina out of answers in the second inning, Henn said the Yankees' relievers knew they were in for a heavy workload. The fact that they made it through 20 outs without spoiling Kyle Farnsworth, Luis Vizcaino, Joba Chamberlain or Mariano Rivera for Wednesday's finale was crucial.
"You're really looking for double plays and things like that to help the starter out," Henn said. "You're really just hoping he gets through an inning, and hopefully it clicks for him. We knew that we were already short [for the middle innings]. There's days like that."
Bombers bits: Mussina's 1 2/3-inning start on Tuesday was his shortest since Sept. 27, 2005, at Baltimore, also 1 2/3 innings. ... Rodriguez (506 homers) has passed Eddie Murray for sole possession of 21st place on the all-time list. ... Robinson Cano is in a 5-for-30 (.167) skid, while Melky Cabrera is 4-for-32 (.154).
Coming up: Following an off-day Thursday, the Yankees open a four-game series with the Tigers on Friday in Detroit. Roger Clemens (5-5, 3.92 ERA) makes his 14th start for New York and will go for his third straight victory, opposed by left-hander Andrew Miller. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET on My9.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less