UNION CITY, N.J. — Hideki Matsui will likely be a designated hitter when the New York Yankees open the playoffs Thursday at Cleveland.
Matsui hit just .185 in September with two homers and 12 RBIs and had fluid drained from his right knee on Sunday in New York.
Yankees manager Joe Torre said Monday that Johnny Damon could start in left field and that he also was thinking about using rookie Shelley Duncan, a right-handed hitter, against C.C. Sabathia in Game 1.
“I’m pretty comfortable with way Johnny’s played left field,” Torre said.
Matsui hit .274 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in 164 at-bats against left-handers, and Duncan hit .303 (10-for-33) with three homers and 10 RBIs against them.
Sabathia is 1-7 with a 7.13 ERA against the Yankees but hasn’t faced them since 2004. Matsui is 0-for-9 against Sabathia, while Duncan has never faced him.
The Yankees swept Cleveland 6-0 in the season series, but those games seem like ages ago. Chase Wright, Kei Igawa and Sean Henn got the wins at Yankee Stadium from April 17-19. Cleveland got hot only after the series at Jacobs Field from Aug. 10-12, winning 31 of its final 43 games.
“We certainly know that the Cleveland team we played and beat every single game this year is a different ballclub than we’re going to face on Thursday,” Torre said at Jose Marti Middle School, where he opened a “Margaret’s Place” safe room on behalf of his “Safe at Home Foundation” to prevent domestic violence.
Roger Clemens threw 49 pitches off a bullpen mound Monday at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla., took 25 grounders and did some light running.
The Rocket, coming back from a hamstring injury, could throw a simulated game today. For now, he is on track to pitch Game 3 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
Torre planned to call him later Monday.
“If he feels he needs another session, I think we have choices at that point in time,” Torre said.
Mike Mussina is the likely choice for Game 4, but if Clemens isn’t ready, Mussina could pitch in Game 3 and be followed by rookie Phil Hughes.
Chien-Ming Wang pitches the opener, followed by Andy Pettitte in Game 2.