Notes: A-Rod defends the slide
Jeter passes DiMaggio on hits list; Rocket close to launch
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez admitted that the slide he used to take out Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia on Tuesday was a "little awkward," but he offered no regrets on the play.
"I always play hard, and I'm never going to apologize for the way I play," Rodriguez said. "If I had the same play today, I'm going just as hard. That's it. You just try to keep it clean, that's all. It's part of the game."
In the eighth inning of Tuesday's game, Jorge Posada chopped a bases-loaded grounder that Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell whipped to second base. Pedroia received it to force out Rodriguez, who slid in hard and then appeared to throw an elbow into the infielder.
After the game, Pedroia told reporters that he thought the play was "a little cheap." Rodriguez said that his intention was to go in "hard and clean" to break up the double play, which he succeeded in doing, as Posada was ruled safe on a run-scoring fielder's choice.
"I like Pedroia. I have a lot of respect for those guys over there," Rodriguez said. "Every run for us is huge, and I'm not just going to go in there like a little baby doll and try to hug him. I have a lot of respect for him, but I'm trying to play hard. By any means, it was not intentional."
Pedroia told reporters after Boston's 7-3 victory that he would remember the play the next time Rodriguez slid into second base, dropping his arm slot. Asked about Pedroia's comment, Rodriguez deflected.
"That's a good idea," Rodriguez said. "I played short for a long time. In the course of a long year, you're going to have plays where guys touch you, and some guys hit you really hard. I barely touched him."
Manager Joe Torre said that the aggressive slide was unremarkable, and opined that plays of that ilk have long been accepted in baseball.
"The only thing I saw is that he went in hard," Torre said. "I didn't notice anything unusual."
Rodriguez said that the play was indicative of the Yankees' current situation. Tuesday's loss dropped New York to four games under .500, at 20-24, and 10 1/2 games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox.
"We're playing for our lives right now, and trying to do the best we can, and taking every pitch and every inning as if it's the last thing," Rodriguez said.
Pedroia did not believe that the play would carry over into future games between the Yankees and Red Sox.
"We'll go out [on Wednesday] and play," he said. "That's the main thing. I don't think we're going out there thinking about the way he's sliding into second base. We're just going out there and playing, playing to win. That's about it. That's all we can do."
Catching Clipper: With a first-inning single off Pedroia's glove on Wednesday, Derek Jeter logged his 2,214th career hit, tying Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio for fifth place on the club's all-time franchise list. Then, with an RBI single in the second, he passed the Yankee Clipper for sole possession of fifth.
Jeter received a standing ovation when the accomplishment was highlighted on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard.
"It's something I was not aware of until someone mentioned it to me yesterday," Jeter said before the game. "It's not like I keep a tally at home. It just shows that you've been playing for a long time. I try to be consistent every day, every year."
Jeter said that sharing list space with DiMaggio or any other Monument Park legends is "a bit overwhelming."
The thought of seeing Jeter tie and surpass the names on the Yankees' historic ledgers is meaningful to Torre, who has seen his career at the helm of the club overlap with Jeter's. Torre spoke on Wednesday about looking back at photographs of Jeter as a fresh-faced rookie in 1996, describing the future seven-time All-Star as a "frail, string-bean kid."
"It's remarkable, it really is," Torre said.
Rocket to launch? One way or the other, it would appear that right-hander Roger Clemens will be making his first Major League start of 2007 against a former club.
The only question for Clemens, who started on Wednesday for Double-A Trenton against Portland, is if he'll decide that two Minor League efforts have been enough of a tuneup to put the pinstripes back on.
If so, he'd line up for a possible Monday start against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. If he needs one more Minor League start, he'd pitch that day for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and could debut on June 2 at Fenway Park against the Red Sox.
"I think he's going be realistic," Torre said. "He's such a stickler when it comes to conditioning. I sense he's not going to say he's ready if he thinks his legs are wobbly. I'm sure his arm is ready, but I think if his legs aren't under him, I don't think he's going to come up here and want to pitch."
Starters announced: The Yankees have decided to give 22-year-old rookie Tyler Clippard another Major League start, following up on his performance against the Mets on Sunday at Shea Stadium. Clippard has been selected to pitch on Friday against the Angels, making his Yankee Stadium debut.
Torre said that Clippard was selected over right-hander Matt DeSalvo, who has made three starts for New York this season but has been available in long relief of late.
"We sort of like DeSalvo in the bullpen," Torre said. "It may be something with Roger [Clemens] in mind that we may want to have as an option. We want to see how it works out and if it makes sense. We think physically he can handle it."
Comeback trail: Injured right-hander Phil Hughes, rehabbing a strained left hamstring -- an injury sustained while pitching a no-hitter on May 1 at Texas -- threw 35 pitches off a full mound on Wednesday in Tampa, reporting no problems.
Coming up: After an off-day on Thursday, the Yankees regroup to face the Angels on Friday in the Bronx. Clippard (1-0, 1.50 ERA) looks to follow up on his impressive debut by facing off against right-hander Jered Weaver (3-3, 3.46 ERA). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.