Christian, called up from Triple-A, starts in left field

Updated: June 24, 2008, 7:05 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- With outfielders Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui unable to play the field because of injuries, the New York Yankees purchased the contract of Justin Christian from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and started him in left field against Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Damon, hitting .323, is expected to be sidelined for a day or two with a sore left arch. Matsui has been bothered lately by a sore knee and can't be used as a designated hitter because the Yankees are in an NL park.

"I'm trying to think if I slipped anywhere -- it just hit me," said Damon, who is hitting a major-league best .413 since May 20. "As the day went on and I had to get ready for the game, it just kept getting worse."

Damon went 0-for-4 on Sunday in the Yankees' 4-1 victory over Cincinnati, then spent most of the off day Monday trying to keep up with his 2-year-old daughter before the team traveled to Pittsburgh.

"It was fine when I woke up, just going around chasing the little one, you're like, 'Uhh' ... the feeling wasn't quite good," Damon said.

To make room for Christian, the Yankees optioned left-hander Billy Traber (0-0, 5.19 ERA in 9 2-3 innings) to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Christian hit .309 with four home runs and 39 RBIs in 50 games there. He stole 18 bases.

The move left the Yankees without a left-hander in their bullpen against the Pirates, who had three left-handed hitters plus a switch-hitter in their lineup and another left-handed bat on the bench Tuesday.

The 28-year-old Christian began his pro career in the independent Frontier League in 2003 after playing at three colleges. He was never considered much of a major league prospect. Despite that, manager Joe Girardi liked what he saw of him during spring training.

"He can create some havoc on the base paths, he plays very good defense, he had some important hits in the later innings," Girardi said. "I liked him because he brings an element that can cause some confusion. He's a good story, too."

Girardi knows how difficult it can be on career minor leaguers or players such as Christian who aren't considered top prospects.

"You never know when your time is going to come, and that's the hardest thing about taking the uniform off," he said.

The Yankees will need another starting pitcher for their two-stadium makeup doubleheader Friday against the Mets and, while Girardi wouldn't confirm it, it is likely to be Sidney Ponson. He was 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA before being released last week by Texas for being a disruption to the team. He signed a Yankees minor league contract on June 18.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press