Notes: Duncan may not need surgery
MRI reveals bone bruise, hernia; rookie meets club in Toronto
TORONTO -- The link between the Yankees' Shelley Duncan and his brother, Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan, took a bizarre twist this week. Both players were diagnosed with hernias that figure to put their playing time in jeopardy.
Shelley Duncan, a 27-year-old who made an immediate impact with an initial power barrage, had an MRI exam administered on Wednesday at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, where Yankees team physician Dr. Stuart Hershon and Dr. George Todd diagnosed the rookie as having a bone bruise on his left pelvis and a small inguinal hernia.
Yankees manager Joe Torre said he was told that the hernia will not immediately require surgery, if at all, and Duncan was expected to fly back to Toronto on Wednesday.
"That was the best news we could possibly get on him," Torre said. "I knew he was concerned about it, because he left here [Tuesday] night. We'll see him tonight."
Before leaving Rogers Centre, Duncan told Torre that the injury had been bothering him for about a month, since he slid aggressively into shortstop John McDonald during New York's series in Toronto in early August.
"I think what was causing him more of the problem was the bruise," Torre said.
Duncan, hitting .259 with six homers and 15 RBIs in 26 games, had been in a recent slide. He is batting just .174 with one home run and five RBIs since the end of the last series at Toronto, which concluded on Aug. 9.
Duncan had seen his playing time diminish with the return of first baseman Jason Giambi and a continuing shuffle between Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui as the left fielder and designated hitter, leaving Duncan mostly to back up Bobby Abreu in right field and scrape for pinch-hit at-bats.
Chris Duncan, Shelley's older brother, left the Cardinals earlier this week to determine if he will require season-ending surgery on a sports hernia, an injury that has nagged him for months.
Getting the job done: Ross Ohlendorf admitted there was some initial hesitation when the Yankees approached him about transitioning to the bullpen, but the 6-foot-4 Princeton product changed his tune as soon as he tried out the new role.
Able to cut loose and not needing to budget his pitches, Ohlendorf saw his velocity rise in relief, making 12 appearances out of the bullpen for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and earning a September callup. After Ohlendorf fought back from two lost months due to a back injury, the turn of events was a welcome reward.
"I was ready to do whatever they wanted me to do," Ohlendorf said. "I had envisioned myself as a starter, and it took a little getting used to -- just thinking about myself pitching in the future as a reliever -- but I've enjoyed it. I feel like I've pitched well out of the 'pen."
Ohlendorf made his Major League debut in the ninth inning of Tuesday's 9-2 victory over the Blue Jays, striking out Lyle Overbay for the first out of his career and then inducing two ground balls to shortstop Alberto Gonzalez.
Ohlendorf said that he appreciates the opportunities that relief work yields, allowing him to appear in more games. As part of his transition, he has scrapped a developing curveball in favor of a more effective slider; after the season, Ohlendorf will report to the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League, where he is being asked to work on a splitter.
"As long as you're focused on getting better, you have a really good chance to," Ohlendorf said. "It's just about getting more repetitions."
Side note: Reliever Luis Vizcaino threw a side session on Wednesday and is expected to be available in the Yankees' bullpen shortly. Vizcaino, the team leader with 70 appearances, had been held out of the entire Kansas City series to rest a sore right shoulder, and he then came down with a stiff lower back after spending Monday night in Toronto.
Vizcaino became the second Yankees player to fall victim to a bad night's sleep at a Toronto hotel this season. Catcher Jorge Posada missed three games in August with a stiff neck.
Go your own way: Matsui continues to struggle, and though he claims that his aching knees are not the reason, the Yankees are encouraging the slumping outfielder to try hitting the ball the other way more. Matsui entered Wednesday with two hits in his last 31 at-bats and appears to have picked up a pull-happy swing in recent weeks.
Torre said he might entertain switching Matsui with Posada in the lineup against left-handed pitchers, though he said he still has as much faith in Matsui to contribute a clutch hit as anybody. But Posada, in the midst of a renaissance season that has seen him homer five times in September, is wielding a bat too potent to ignore.
"The best thing he has going for him is how he's been hitting," Torre said. "All of a sudden, you're not as tired. It's a mental thing."
Looking ahead: With Mike Mussina making his first start Wednesday since Aug. 27, the right-hander hasn't been left out of the Yankees' plans entirely. A good performance could open the door for a September stretch drive in which the Yankees use a six-man rotation, though no such decision has been reached yet.
"We may find out that an extra day here and there at this point won't hurt anybody," Torre said.
Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte have been rocks in the rotation, and Roger Clemens -- who will throw a shorter, more vigorous bullpen session on Thursday -- expects to be back in the rotation by Sunday. With Mussina involved, that leaves rookies Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, neither of whom has done anything to warrant being pulled. Hughes logged a victory on Tuesday at Toronto, and Kennedy earned Thursday's start by battling back to pitch five innings last Friday at Kansas City.
The last game: Yankee Stadium will host its final regular-season game on Sept. 21, 2008, with New York playing the Baltimore Orioles, according to a report by The Associated Press.
The report indicated that both the Yankees and Mets have received schedule drafts from the Commissioner's office. The Mets, who are also moving to a new stadium in 2009, will hold their final regular-season game at Shea Stadium on Sept. 28, 2008.
The Yankees have played their home games on their current site since 1923, except for a two-year renovation in 1974-75, when those contests were held at Shea Stadium. A new $1 billion stadium is being completed across the street from Yankee Stadium.
Bombers bits: With Tuesday's victory, the Yankees clinched a winning season for the 15th consecutive year. New York's last losing season came in 1992, when it finished 76-86 under Buck Showalter. ... Left-hander Kei Igawa was available in long relief on Wednesday, backing up Mussina. ... Derek Jeter was lifted in the eighth inning on Tuesday with a big lead, and Torre said he plans to try to repeat the gesture whenever possible to help reduce the captain's aches.
Coming up: The Yankees will complete their three-game series with the Blue Jays on Thursday, sending the rookie Kennedy (1-0, 2.25) to the mound for his third Major League start. Toronto will counter with right-hander A.J. Burnett (8-7, 3.56), with first pitch from Rogers Centre scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.