And yet, in this late part of the season, catcher Jorge Posada could still take a batting-practice glance at Fenway Park's center-field scoreboard and spot his name among the American League batting leaders.
"It's remarkable," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "I think it's remarkable. I really do."
At 36, Posada is coming down the home stretch on a renaissance year that never trailed off, as some expected it might. His .338 batting average entering play on Friday -- fourth in the AL -- would be a terrific accomplishment in itself, teamed with the excellent timing of a contractual walk season.
But Posada's success has been made even more notable by the mental and physical demands of the catching position. Indeed, Posada's campaign appears certain to rank with some of the finest in Yankees history by a backstop, closing in on Bill Dickey's second-best .339 mark from 1930. Dickey also had the all-time catcher mark, a .362 clip in 1936 that appears unreachable.
"You just go out there," Posada said. "You get ready and you get prepared, and you look forward to the next day. Some days, it's worse than others. It's all health, and adrenaline really kicks in sometimes."
Torre never had the added boost of catching every day in a heated playoff race, and his best offensive season -- a .363 National League Most Valuable Player campaign for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971 -- came when he had already shifted to third base. Yet Torre could easily recall just how beat up the campaigns had made him: the fatigue was more mental than physical.
"The mental [fatigue] is so exhausting," Torre said. "I experienced it a number of times when you're trying to get somebody through an inning or a game, and then you get up and say, 'Oh, yeah, I've got to hit this inning.'"
Posada's lapses of languish have been less frequent. Fighting to keep pace in the playoff race -- New York opened play on Friday trailing Boston by 5 1/2 games in the AL East but leading Detroit by 3 1/2 for the AL Wild Card -- appears to have helped keep Posada fresher, but it hasn't been a magic cure-all.
"When I'm talking about being ready, I've been healthy," Posada said. "There's no second wind. When you play 162 games, there is no second wind."
Nothing brewing: An informal poll of Yankees players and executives before Friday's game lent no indication that trouble could be on the horizon for the three-game series at Fenway Park, even though umpires cited previous "bad blood" between New York and Boston as a major reason why rookie Joba Chamberlain was ejected on Aug. 30.
"I've got no idea," said general manager Brian Cashman. "We're never out there looking for trouble. We're just looking for wins."
Chamberlain has shrugged off his ninth-inning incident with Boston's Kevin Youkilis that day in New York, where the right-handed reliever was tossed for throwing two fastballs over the first baseman's head. Chamberlain was suspended two games and fined $1,000, and said on Thursday in Toronto that he considered the matter closed.
Youkilis has been widely quoted in similar veins. The Yankees echoed those thoughts, saying that they did not expect the Red Sox to further stir the incident.
"I don't think so, unless they want their guys suspended," Johnny Damon said. "Joba was trying to get his first save, throwing 100 mph. Unfortunately, it happens."
All systems go: Roger Clemens has had the "tentative" label lifted from his starting assignment for Sunday. The Rocket is expected to pitch at Fenway Park for the first time since Game 3 of the 2003 AL Championship Series, bouncing back well from his "vigorous" bullpen session at Rogers Centre on Thursday.
"There really wasn't anything he tried to do that he wasn't able to do," Torre said.
With Clemens apparently back in the mix and -- the Yankees believe -- back from the right elbow issues that forced him to seek a pair of cortisone injections in Houston last week, the club has not necessarily committed to its rotation past Monday, when right-hander Phil Hughes is scheduled to face the Orioles in New York.
Torre said he plans to meet with pitching coach Ron Guidry to weigh scenarios in which six starting pitchers can be used while ensuring that both Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang receive their proper rest.
"We'd probably try to do what's best for them," Torre said. "We just have to figure out what we can do and not disrupt them."
One more day: Kyle Farnsworth's stiff neck was feeling better in the hours leading up to Friday's game, but the right-handed reliever was still considered unavailable for duty.
"It feels a lot better than it was the last couple of days," Farnsworth said. "I still feel it a bit, but it's better than it was."
Farnsworth missed the entire Toronto series after incurring the stiff neck while sleeping wrong. He has been taking medication to remedy the problem, but his unavailability forced a chain reaction of events in which the Yankees were forced to use Chris Britton in the ninth inning of a tied game on Thursday.
In Farnsworth's absence, Torre said the Yankees could use Ross Ohlendorf, who struck out one in his Major League debut on Tuesday, or Jose Veras to help move the ball along to Luis Vizcaino and Mariano Rivera with a late-inning lead.
Quotable: "I like Manny. I've had him on a number of All-Star teams. But I'm not going to miss him in that lineup, let's put it that way." -- Torre, on sidelined Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez
Bombers bits: Hideki Matsui (3-for-20 on the Yankees' current road trip) still doesn't appear quite as comfortable as he could be, Torre said. ... Double-A Trenton can wrap up its best-of-five series with Akron on Friday, leading the set, 2-0. The Thunder is the only remaining active club of the four affiliates that qualified for postseason play. ... Vizcaino was "a little tight" after his appearance on Thursday, Torre said, but he long-tossed in Boston.
Coming up: A matchup of bonafide AL Cy Young Award contenders will play out on Saturday, as Wang (18-6, 3.69 ERA) challenges right-hander Josh Beckett (18-6, 3.27 ERA). First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 3:55 p.m. ET 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.