NEW YORK -- For the first time in seven years, Paul O'Neill will not be in right field when the Yankees open the playoffs. And O'Neill, who is still bothered by a stress fracture of his left foot, believes they are better off Wednesday night against the Oakland Athletics.
"Right now, I haven't been in the outfield for so long, I don't want to do something that will cost the team a game," O'Neill said.
Those words did not exactly come as a surprise, not after O'Neill had been inactive for almost a month, his injured left foot strapped into a protective plastic boot. He made a last-minute effort to ready himself for the postseason, playing sparingly during the final week, but O'Neill could not deny that his aching foot was limiting his mobility.
O'Neill wanted to test it again during Tuesday's workout at Yankee Stadium, perhaps hoping for some miraculous turnaround, but Manager Joe Torre already had seen enough.
So O'Neill will start at DH, batting sixth, and David Justice will take his place in right field, hitting behind him. It was understandable that Torre would stick with O'Neill as the DH, a decision no doubt influenced by his looming retirement after the season. But also starting Justice, and snubbing the righthanded Shane Spencer, against the A's lefthanded starter, Mark Mulder, is a leap of faith on Torre's part.
Both O'Neill and Justice enter the playoffs hurting -- Justice has suffered from a myriad leg injuries and has slumped at the plate recently -- but Torre is big on loyalty.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.