Cabrera to start for Damon while he's out

Updated: April 4, 2007, 9:27 PM ET
Associated Press

New York Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon has a sore right calf and wasn't in the posted lineup for Wednesday's game against the Devil Rays, which was postponed because of rain.

Johnny Damon

"I could barely walk," Damon said. "It felt like cramps the other day, but it's definitely much worse than that."

Damon left Monday's opening victory over Tampa Bay with cramps in both calves, but said Wednesday only the right one was still bothering him. In the clubhouse, he had his right calf wrapped.

"We're probably dealing with a strain, but to what degree we don't know yet," general manager Brian Cashman said. "No bruising. It's not swollen. But it's sore."

Melky Cabrera was slated to start in center field Wednesday, and second baseman Robinson Cano was in the leadoff spot.

Cabrera will fill in for Damon until he returns. If Damon has to go on the disabled list, the Yankees would probably call up an outfielder from the minors. But after talking with team physician Dr. Stuart Hershon, Cashman said a stint on the DL was "not something that's being recommended right now."

No tests on Damon were planned yet. First, Hershon wants to see how Damon feels Thursday, Cashman said.

The GM was asked if an injury to Damon might open up a spot for former outfielder Bernie Williams on the major league roster. Cashman had a one-word answer: "No."

Williams, a longtime stalwart and fan favorite, declined New York's offer of a minor league contract in the offseason and never came to spring training.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he's comfortable with Cabrera, who got plenty of playing time as a rookie last season because of injuries to fellow outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield. Cabrera batted .280 with seven homers, 50 RBIs and 26 doubles in 460 at-bats. He also scored 75 runs and stole 12 bases while playing excellent defense, especially in left field.

"Obviously, if it doesn't start to get better, we'll become more concerned," Torre said, referring to Damon. "We're certainly confident in Melky's ability. The fact that he played as a regular player for us last year, I feel pretty good about that."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press