In his official introduction to the New York media, new acquisition Casey McGhee used terms that others brought to the Yankees have stated over the years. He talked about trying to put a World Series ring on his finger and used the term “storied franchise.”
Less than 24 hours ago, McGhee was in Chicago preparing to face Ryan Dempster in an important game for the Pirates. That matchup never occurred since both players were dealt.
“I was just about ready to go start my day, but then the phone starts ringing off the hook and I get called in the office,” McGhee said. “So it was the first time I've been traded in the middle of the season so that part was a little bit weird. It was tough to leave guys. We had a pretty good run over there in Pittsburgh so it was tough to leave. But once I got in the clubhouse and was able to really think about what was going on, I got excited about the opportunity.”
McGhee arrived from Chicago at 1 a.m. and when he walked into the Yankee clubhouse, he found himself hitting seventh and playing first base. First base is where he primarily played in Pittsburgh since Pedro Alvarez has established himself at third, but his comfort level there has increased from when he began spring training with the Pirates.
“If you would have asked me [in] spring training, I would have told you that I didn't feel comfortable at all at first base,” McGhee said. But I’ve done it enough now to where I feel comfortable doing it.
“Third base is something I've played since I was in college so it's kind of — the few times I've been over there this year — it was kind of nice to go over there and feel 100 percent comfortable. I guess that's one good thing is I just enjoy playing, no matter what the position or whatever, I just like the opportunity to play.”
In his debut, he drew two walks, scored twice and also lifted a sacrifice fly to the center field warning track. He also recorded eight putouts at first base.
“He was patient and I haven’t seen a lot of him over the years,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So he did a nice job and the last ball he hit I was impressed with that too. We believe he’s going to help us.”
Ichiro goes left
Since Phil Hughes has the highest fly ball rate by a good distance over any other Yankee starting pitcher, manager Girardi figured Wednesday was a good time to put Ichiro in left field for the first time.
Also factoring into Ichiro’s first career regular-season appearance in left field is the ground that he can cover, which is similar to Brett Gardner’s range. Combined with the fact that left field has the most ground to cover and the Yankees have been using average defenders out there since Gardner got hurt in April, Girardi felt it was a good time to put him there.
“The field is bigger out there and obviously you can use your range,” Ichiro said through an interpreter. “So that obviously brings a little excitement to me to be able to cover more ground. I just have to get used to it in games and get adjusted.”
“This is a guy that has 10 Gold Gloves; he’s a talented outfielder,” Girardi said. “You might see a little adjustment. We’re not going to go now until we get him out there in a game situation. You can take all the balls in batting practice that you want but it’s going to be different in a game situation. With all his experience we feel that he can do it and he’ll do a good job.”
Coincidentally, Ichiro’s previous start in left field was in Game 5 of the 2001 ALCS, which was played at Yankee Stadium.
Ichiro had two chances on Wednesday. One was a nice leaping grab at the warning track that robbed Mark Reynolds of a home run in the sixth inning.
Ford back to the majors
Though he was not in Baltimore’s starting lineup Wednesday, this series has been an exciting one for left fielder Lew Ford, who on Tuesday had his first major-league hit since Sept. 21, 2007.
It was Ford’s first hit in 1,774 days. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he was the first player to go more than four years between hits in the majors since Valentino Pascucci, who went six years and 340 days between hits (2004-2011).
Besides being productive for the Long Island Ducks this year, getting back to the majors was also aided by his connection to Baltimore general manager Dan Duquette. Duquette was Boston’s GM in 1999 when Ford was a 12th-round pick and traded him a year later to Minnesota.
“All of those guys were with the Red Sox when they drafted me in 1999, so I knew them before and they kind of brought me in before,” Ford said on Monday. “They knew me and they gave a chance. They needed somebody. At that point it was up to me to play well, but they gave me a chance.”
Ford officially returned to the majors Sunday afternoon against Oakland. He found out while working out in Norfolk but it did not completely sink in until he was told he was being upgraded to a suite in a hotel overlooking Camden Yards.
“I got there and they told me they upgraded me to a nice suite,” Ford said. “I went up there and I went this was awesome.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.