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New-look Yanks thinking playoffs

New-look Yanks thinking playoffs

NEW YORK -- His locker closest to the clubhouse door, Sidney Ponson saw the commotion hours before Thursday's game. Reporters clamored around the starting lineup posted on the door, seeing where the Yankees' newest addition, Ivan Rodriguez, was listed (eighth).

So Ponson weighed in.

"Sounds like a winner," Ponson said.

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Well, that would be New York's hope.

As the Yankees prepare to continue their series with the visiting Angels, they do so with a lineup and bullpen considered improved by their recent trades and, in many of the players' eyes, playoff-ready.

Outfielder Xavier Nady and reliever Damaso Marte were added in a trade with the Pirates on July 24. On Wednesday, one day before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, New York nabbed Pudge from Detroit in exchange for reliever Kyle Farnsworth.

The addition of Nady effectively allowed the injured Jorge Posada to have season-ending shoulder surgery and be ready for the start of next season instead of delaying it to play this season and miss time in 2009. Marte gives the bullpen a left-hander it didn't have before, and a solid one at that. Finally, Rodriguez adds a potent bat to the bottom of the lineup.

"We covered some situations that we thought we had to," Mike Mussina said. "We addressed some issues that we thought we had to. It's nice to have a left-hander in the 'pen. Nady provides another right-handed bat. We've been left-handed-heavy for a while."

The clubhouse now looks different in many ways. Nady has photos of Xavier Nady VII, born on July 15, on his locker; Pudge took over the injured Phil Hughes' locker, which had had that same pink dress shirt and gray slacks in it since early May. But wherever the new names are -- on the roster, on lockers' nameplates, on the lineup card -- they give New York more confidence in the middle of a playoff push.

"If you look at the names, yeah, with their track records ...," said Ponson, who'll start opposite Ervin Santana on Friday. "I know what they expect. It's going to be the same lineup day in and day out. You just have to put some runs on the board and win a ballgame."

The Yankees praised general manager Brian Cashman for making those moves, which didn't cost the team too much.

"When you lose guys like [Hideki Matsui, on the disabled list], when you lose Jorge, you lose [Wang, also on the disabled list], you have to find ways to fill in for them," Mussina said. "They made some big moves to do that, to give us a chance.

"I've been on both sides of it," he added. "I've been on teams that were selling and not buying. It's nice to know that the front office and the people that are making the big decisions are working as hard at it as we are."

And though such players as Johnny Damon are confident about the team, they're aware that it's only Aug. 1.

"We're not sure about Wang," Damon said. "Wang was so important to us. Who knows if we'll get him back. We'll see. We need to start playing better. Cashman did everything in his power to make us a better team."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Sidney Ponson (6-2, 4.59 ERA)
Ponson looks to rebound after his roughest outing in pinstripes. He was tagged for 10 hits and seven runs, all earned, in just four innings, taking the loss in a 9-2 setback to the Red Sox on Sunday night. The four innings matched his shortest stint of the season and also marked the second time he's allowed seven earned runs in five starts with New York. He had not allowed more than nine hits in four previous starts with the Yankees. The loss snapped a personal three-game winning streak, two of which came with the Yankees. He is 7-2 lifetime against the Angels, with a 4.67 ERA in 11 career starts, including four complete games and a shutout.

LAA: RHP Ervin Santana (11-5, 3.57 ERA)
Santana took his second consecutive loss in his last outing, on Sunday in Baltimore. He has only lost back-to-back starts one other time this season, May 17 and May 22. On May 17, however, Santana was not ineffective -- allowing just three earned runs to the Indians -- but on Sunday he was a bit more accountable, giving up five runs to the Orioles, four within the first three innings. A consistent starter all year, Santana has a slightly higher ERA on the road, at 3.77. He has not faced the Yankees this season.

Tidbits
Second baseman Matt Cusick, whom the Yankees acquired in the LaTroy Hawkins trade on Wednesday, was assigned to Class A Tampa. ... Bobby Abreu has reached base safely in 19 straight games. ... The Yankees allowed 18 hits on Thursday, the second most they've allowed this season.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MY9

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 13-7, 3.56) vs. Angels (Jered Weaver, 9-8, 4.11), 3:55 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Darrell Rasner, 5-8, 4.92) vs. Angels (John Lackey, 9-2, 2.93), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 4-3, 2.24) at Rangers (Vicente Padilla, 12-5, 4.52), 8:05 p.m. ET

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

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