If he hadn’t already, Lance Berkman certainly arrived last night. It was obviously in the Yankees clubhouse that Berkman was one of the guys in every which way: He was the guy getting clutch hits on the field, and guy being the butt of the joke off the field.
“You know these games are important,” Alex Rodriguez said. “I actually saw him in the weight room a couple of days ago. I almost had a heart attack.”
That’s the kind of thing players don’t say about the new guy. They don’t make jokes about the guy who doesn’t quite belong. They don’t kid unless they know a guy’s playing his part.
“That will bond you to your teammates really quickly when you start getting big hits in the playoffs,” Berkman said. “Let’s say we won the World Series. If you don’t participate, if you are just sitting on the bench and watching and don’t do anything, it’s hard to take as much joy as if you help them win the game.”
For a while now, Berkman has been talking about wanting to make some sort of mark with this team. It’s a brand new situation for him – you think the Astros ever considered batting him eighth? — and Berkman needed to contribute to really feel a part of what’s happening with this team. Last night he had the Yankees two biggest hits: A go-ahead home run in the fifth and a go-ahead double in the seventh.
Berkman’s postgame press conference ended just as Andy Pettitte’s was beginning. Pettitte walked onto the stage, gave Berkman a fist bump and then said: “I told him I hadn’t won a game since he’d been here, and I was going to get rid of him.”
Players only say things like that about one of their own, and it was clear Berkman one of them.
“It’s a good start,” Berkman said. “That’s why I wanted to come over here was just the chance to play in these games. They were going to make the postseason with or without me in the regular season. I just want to be able to contribute and maybe help us win a few games here in October.”
**REMINDER** Sam and I will be chatting at 3:15 this afternoon. It will be a quick on, 30 minutes or so, in the middle of the Yankees workout at Yankee Stadium. See you then.
Associated Press photo of Berkman and Rodriguez