1 New York Yankees Godzilla might be a monster, but the key addition is a soft-tossing middle reliever

March 31, 2003

Chris Hammond spent his two-year retirement, in 1999 and 2000, on
his ranch in the country hamlet of Wedowee, Ala., whiling away
the days by bass fishing, deer and duck hunting, and minding his
three young children. On the strength of his first season back in
the majors--last year with the Braves, the lefthander was 7--2
with a 0.95 ERA in 63 appearances--the Yankees made Hammond the
centerpiece of their bullpen makeover. "It's just like in Atlanta
with [closer] John Smoltz," Hammond says. "You've got to have
those sixth-, seventh-, eighth-inning pitchers to get to Mariano
Rivera. I prepared myself for this the second half of last year;
I pitched the sixth and seventh innings of almost every close
game, and it's not going to be any different this year."

The hallmark of the New York dynasty has been bullpen rhythm, the
ball passed like a relay baton from Ramiro Mendoza to Mike
Stanton, to Jeff Nelson or Steve Karsay, to the closer, Rivera.
In regular-season games under manager Joe Torre the Yankees are
523--54 when leading after six innings. In postseason games their
record is 37--3. Yet New York overhauled that bullpen this
winter. Gone are Mendoza and Stanton, who accounted for a 6--2
record and a 3.47 ERA in 46 2/3 playoff innings. Karsay, who
underwent back surgery in November, opens the season on the
disabled list with right shoulder soreness, and the aura of
invincibility around Rivera, who made three trips to the DL in
2002, has been punctured.

Once a straight shot, the journey from the sixth inning to the
ninth has become less certain. "It's going to take time to put
things in order," Torre says. "With Stanton and Mendoza gone, I
have nobody I'm used to [for the middle innings]."

Rivera, for one, will see his workload lightened, as the Yankees
attempt to minimize the risk of injury. "Because of the physical
problems he had last year, our goal is to pitch Rivera only in
save situations and not to overextend him," Torre says. That
suggests more multi-inning save opportunities for Karsay or
former White Sox closer Antonio Osuna, who will fill Mendoza's
role after being obtained in the three-way trade that sent
Orlando Hernandez to Montreal and Bartolo Colon to Chicago.

Hammond is being counted on to replace Stanton, a versatile
workhorse who had earned Torre's trust. Happy in retirement,
Hammond considered pitching again at the urging of his wife,
Lynne. "She was kind of disappointed that my kids didn't know me
as a baseball player," Hammond says. "They could only look at
pictures and videos, but after watching SportsCenter and seeing
the lefties who were in some bullpens, I started thinking, I can
pitch better than that."

Last year Hammond was a nonroster invitee to the Braves' spring
training and quickly dusted off a devastating, fluttering
changeup as slow as his Southern drawl. Hammond paired it with a
pinpoint mid80s fastball--which appears to be 5 mph faster
because of his deceptive change--and excelled as Smoltz's setup
man. After the season the Yankees offered Stanton, Hammond and
Mark Guthrie, another free-agent reliever who spent 2002 with the
Mets, the same two-year deal for just under $5 million. Hammond
bit first.

"Our scouts wanted Hammond over Stanton," says general manager
Brian Cashman. "They felt [in the long run] that Chris would be a
better guy to get the hitters out than Mike." Because he throws
his changeup with equal effectiveness to lefties and righties,
and prefers facing the latter, Hammond can be used not as a
situational reliever, as Stanton was, but to work full innings in
tight games.

The 2002 AL leader in on-base percentage (.354), as well as the
club that was second in slugging percentage (.455) and home runs
(223), the Yankees added to their embarrassment of riches by
signing leftfielder Hideki (Godzilla) Matsui. The three-time
Japan League MVP showed excellent bat control this spring,
striking out only four times in 51 at bats through Sunday. With
depth at nearly every position, the Yankees are fulfilling the
prediction made on the satirical website The Onion in February:
YANKEES ENSURE 2003 PENNANT BY SIGNING EVERY PLAYER IN BASEBALL.

Still, much rests on Hammond, who has come 999 miles, as the crow
flies, from lazy days in Wedowee to pressure-packed nights in the
Bronx. The city at the end of this thousand-mile journey won't
countenance a single misstep. --Daniel G. Habib

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON BROADWAY BOUND In dress rehearsals this spring, Matsui was hitting for power and rarely failed to put the ball in play.
COLOR PHOTO: EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES HAMMOND

IN FACT

Alfonso Soriano (128), Derek Jeter (124), Jason Giambi (120) and
Bernie Williams (102) scored 100 runs last year, the most Yankees
to reach that mark in one season since 1941.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Yankees

"I THINK George Steinbrenner has gotten into Derek Jeter's head
because it seems as if something's bothering the shortstop. He's
bobbling balls he doesn't usually mishandle. I saw him strike out
on a pitch over his head. He's not himself.... I haven't seen
this supposed greatness in Hideki Matsui. He's got a quick bat
and some power, and he has a decent arm, but is he living up to
the hype? I don't think so.... Robin Ventura cannot move that
well in the field, so they're going to rest him every three or
four days and use Todd Zeile in his place at third.... They still
have one of the better pitching staffs: Roger Clemens looks
sharp, Mike Mussina will win another 16 or 17 games, Andy
Pettitte is still good, David Wells is a question mark only
because of the crap with his book, and Jeff Weaver has pitched
well enough to be the fifth starter.... Chris Hammond is a damn
good acquisition. He'll sink the ball, he'll cut the ball, and
he'll change speeds. He'll get righthanders out with that change
that dives away from them.... Jose Contreras has decent stuff--he
throws 92 to 96 miles per hour and has a good slider and a decent
splitter--but he hasn't been able to get it over the plate."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2002 statistics

BATTING ORDER

2B Soriano
SS Jeter
1B Giambi
CF Williams
LF Matsui
C Posada
3B Ventura
RF Mondesi
DH Johnson

ALFONSO SORIANO

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 9 .300 39 102 41

DEREK JETER

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 35 .297 18 75 32

JASON GIAMBI

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 7 .314 41 122 2

BERNIE WILLIAMS

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 33 .333 19 102 8

HIDEKI MATSUI* (R) [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 69 .334 50 107 3

JORGE POSADA

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 59 .268 20 99 1

ROBIN VENTURA

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 131 .247 27 93 3

RAUL MONDESI

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 113 .232 26 88 15

BENCH

BUBBA TRAMMELL [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 279 .243 17 56 1

TODD ZEILE [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 287 .273 18 87 1

DESIGNATED HITTER

NICK JOHNSON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 123 .243 15 58 1

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Roger Clemens 25 13 6 6.2 1.31 4.35
LH Andy Pettitte 40 13 5 6.1 1.31 3.27
RH Mike Mussina 15 18 10 6.5 1.18 4.05
LH David Wells 61 19 7 6.7 1.24 3.75
RH Jeff Weaver 87 11 11 7.1 1.21 3.52

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Mariano Rivera 21 1 4 28 1.00 2.74
RH Steve Karsay 164 6 4 12 1.32 3.26
LH Chris Hammond [#] 158 7 2 0 1.11 0.95

[#] New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Japanese Central League stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 157)

2002 RECORD

103--58
first in AL East

MANAGER

Joe Torre
eighth season with New York

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)