Lyle Overbay arrived in Yankees spring training camp a month ago still carrying his equipment bag from a brief stint with the Red Sox. The Yankees needed some depth at first base while they waited for Mark Teixeira’s forearm to heal and Overbay happened to be available.
It was a move met with ridicule and disdain from many Yankee fans and although Overbay has not hit as well as Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells, he has sprinkled in a few key hits.
On a day when the Yankees were mostly flummoxed by R.A. Dickey's knuckleball, Overbay was not. He sent one into the Yankee bullpen beyond the right-center field wall for a two-run home run with two outs in the seventh inning to give the Yankees a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays.
“I think a lot of things have to work in my favor, which I think they did,” Overbay said of becoming a Yankee. “I think that’s the way it happened but I was up in the air. You never know.”
Overbay estimated he was a free agent for about 90 minutes before his agent reached out to the Yankees and to Milwaukee, whom he played with for two seasons. He hit free agency after getting a call from Boston general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell shortly after the Red Sox acquired Mike Carp.
“When I signed there, in the beginning they said we’re looking for an outfielder and a first baseman who can play from the left side,” Overbay said. “I understood that and the trades that they were trying to get didn’t work out. So they told me that those trades might come up and that’s when the deal with Mike Carp kind of sealed the deal a little bit.”
The Yankees won for the 14th time in 19 games following their 1-4 start. For the second straight game, the Yankees got the big hit from a veteran acquisition.
“We’ve got good players,” Overbay said. “It’s just a matter of getting those opportunities and that timely hitting. We’ve had pretty good timely hitting. It’s just a matter of getting that timely hitting for us.”
“He’s been important to us,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Offensively he’s really contributed but defensively he’s really solidified first base. He really knows how to play the position. He’s done a really nice job for us and we got a little bit lucky when he became available at the end of spring training.”
On Saturday, the Yankees won by getting four RBI from Hafner in his first start against a left-handed pitcher and an RBI from Wells.
Overbay’s hit improved the Yankees to 9-1 in games decided by two runs or less, including all four of their wins over the Blue Jays.
And instead of surviving while waiting for injured players to return, the Yankees are thriving with these players making consistent contributions.
“I would have signed up for [a 15-9 record] definitely,” Girardi said. “It’s a group that has something to prove, some guys that are older that had some down years, or some injury plagued years and some younger guys trying to establish themselves.”
The hit also took some of the focus away from Phil Hughes. Hughes allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings.
He managed to limit the damage by striking out Edwin Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera with Jose Bautista on second in the sixth inning. Bautista struck out twice against Hughes and, after scoring Toronto’s second run, he made the final out of the seventh by striking out against Boone Logan.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.