Notes: Kennedy ready for debut

Notes: Kennedy ready for debut

NEW YORK -- Manager Joe Torre will head to Yankee Stadium on Saturday entrusting his team to 22-year-old starter Ian Kennedy.

The least he can do is say hello.

On Friday, one day before Kennedy's Major League debut, Torre still hadn't met with the newest member of his starting rotation. Kennedy was in New York on Thursday night to work with Triple-A pitching coach Dave Eiland, but he won't join the team until just before his start on Saturday.

"We passed in the night," Torre said of his lone encounter with Kennedy, on Thursday. "I was leaving here, and he was showing up. I just shook his hand, and said, 'I'll see you Saturday.' "

That doesn't mean there haven't been exhaustive preparations. Eiland came to New York to help Kennedy for his debut, even with his Scranton Wilkes-Barre team in full playoff-preparation mode. Yet, with the Triple-A Yankees already having clinched their division title with a week left in the season, Eiland was more readily available to follow one of his star pupils to New York.

The two worked out on Thursday evening at the stadium after the Yankees completed their game with the Red Sox.

And Eiland, more than just about anyone, firmly believes that Kennedy can succeed despite the pressures of New York.

"He's the whole package," Eiland said. "That's one of his strengths, his demeanor. I don't think you're ever going to find out until you put a kid in that situation, but all indications are he'll handle it just fine."

Roster jumble: The Yankees have immediate plans to add three players in addition to Kennedy when rosters expand on Saturday: first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, reliever Jose Veras and infielder Alberto Gonzalez.

The Yankees will then add one or two more pitchers when the Minor League season ends early next week. They could use a left-hander for the bullpen, so they could decide to tap either Kei Igawa or Chase Wright for that role.

Mientkiewicz spent time with the Yankees earlier in the year, playing 50 games before suffering a concussion and a fractured right wrist in a June collision. Veras pitched 12 games in relief and earned a save last season, whereas Gonzalez will be making his Yankees debut.

Though Torre will certainly appreciate the help, he noted that he doesn't fully agree with the concept of September callups, which make it easier for teams that are out of the playoff race to play the role of spoiler.

"It's so different, managing-wise," Torre said. "You sit here sometimes and say this is unfair. Not only the fact that somebody has so many players to use, but the other thing is, you have no idea who that player is. That's the problem."

To the left, to the left: Hideki Matsui was back in left field on Friday for the first time in five games, saying that his balky right knee felt "a little bit better."

Matsui had started at designated hitter for four straight games, batting .214 over that stretch. Overall, he's hitting .299 as a left fielder this season and .326 as a DH.

"He was all right to play [on Thursday]," Torre said. "The injury he has, it's uncomfortable, but it doesn't keep him from doing anything."

Sigh of relief? The Yankees were seemingly out of the woods entering this weekend, finishing their toughest stretch of schedule not only intact, but with the American League Wild Card lead again in their grasp.

Thursday's finale against the Red Sox was the last of 14 straight games against the Sox, Tigers and Angels -- all among the AL's top playoff contenders. The Yankees finished that stretch 8-6 and can now enjoy a September schedule that boasts just six total games against teams that have a serious chance to make the postseason.

But that doesn't mean the Yankees are comfortable. They still have three games next week against the Mariners (their main competition for the Wild Card) and another three in Boston, where anything can -- and usually does -- happen.

And Torre won't discount games against Tampa Bay or Baltimore, either. The Devil Rays have already taken five of 12 games from the Yankees this season, and the Orioles have won eight of 12. The Yankees play those two teams another 12 times combined over the final 28 games of the season.

"It doesn't matter where the team is in the standings," Torre said. "They can beat your brains out."

Fashion police: Torre wasn't pleased when a Major League security official interrupted Red Sox manager Terry Francona during this week's series to make sure he was wearing the proper uniform top under his team jacket.

"I thought that was ridiculous," he said. "To me, you're basically telling us what we're doing during the game isn't that important. And I don't think that's the right message to send."

Torre also spoke out about the umpiring crew that ejected reliever Joba Chamberlain from Thursday's game, calling the decision "ridiculous."

Bombers bits: Reliever Jim Brower elected to become a free agent rather than accept a Minor League assignment. The Yankees designated Brower for assignment on Aug. 15. ... Backup catcher Jose Molina will be behind the plate for Kennedy's debut. ... The Yankees-Blue Jays game on Sept. 24 has been rescheduled for a 1:05 p.m. ET start. That game, originally scheduled for 7:05 p.m., was a makeup of the April 25 game, which was postponed due to rain.

Coming up: Kennedy will make his Major League debut in a Saturday matinee at Yankee Stadium. The 22-year-old prospect will oppose Devil Rays right-hander Edwin Jackson in a 1:05 p.m. ET start.

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.