Overbay: The Final Days?
May, 25, 2013
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsLyle Overbay might have had his signature moment as a Yankee on Saturday.ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The sight of Lyle Overbay jacking a Josh Lueke pitch into the right-field seats in the 11th inning to provide the margin of victory in Saturday's rousing 4-3 come-from-behind Yankees win over the Tampa Bay Rays will not be the last look Yankees fans get at Overbay as the team's starting first baseman.
After all, Mark Teixeira is not due back until the end of next week at the earliest.
But clearly, Overbay's days as the everyday first baseman are running out in a hurry. He knows it, the Yankees know it and you know it.
So what Overbay did in this game -- namely, salvage a victory in a place in which victories have been incredibly hard to come by for the Yankees, in a game in which a lot of great things nearly went to waste -- might stand as his finest moment in a Yankees uniform, a tenure that began out of desperation in the last week of spring training.
"He's done it for us all year, and he's a big reason why we are where we're at," Joe Girardi said. "Big at-bats for us all day long and a big home run to win it."
To that point, the Yankees had gotten a fine starting pitching performance out of Vidal Nuno, survived a sloppy, self-destructive seventh-inning, staged a ninth-inning rally and witnessed an incredible game-saving catch in the bottom of the ninth by Ichiro Suzuki.
They had also held Matt Moore, Tampa Bay's outstanding lefty, to a draw for six innings and withstood a white-knuckle 10th inning pitched by the newest member of their bullpen, Ivan Nova.
All of that might have been relegated to the bottom of the game notes had Overbay not stroked that Lueke pitch deep into the right-field seats to turn what had looked like a certain defeat into a scintillating victory, one that had a much more festive feel than Friday night's 9-4 win, darkened as it was by the loss of Curtis Granderson to a broken left hand from an errant Cesar Ramos pitch.
Overbay has done an excellent job in place of Teixeira -- the home run was his eighth of the season, the RBI his 28th, and it marked the third time this season he hit a homer that put the Yankees ahead in the seventh inning of a game or later -- but when Tex comes back, there's no question what his role will be: backup to a player who, before last season, had played in an average of 155 games a season for the previous seven seasons.
At the same time, Overbay didn't sound completely resigned to a permanent seat on the bench once Teixeira returns.
"It's going to come down to numbers," he said. "I mean, obviously, you've got to be doing well, but I think we're all doing well. It just comes down to where you're comfortable, where Joe's comfortable, all that kind of stuff. We'll see. It will work out either way."
And why shouldn't he feel that way? ”Overbay was brought in on the last Wednesday of training camp, having been released by the Red Sox hours earlier, and handed an assignment: Show us by Friday why we should keep you here. More than one-quarter of the regular season later, he is still here, producing Teixeira-like early-season numbers -- Tex had nine home runs and 31 RBIs to the same point last season and was hitting .261 to Overbay's .255.
It has been a remarkable journey so far, even if it is nearing its end, and even Girardi felt compelled to reflect on it after the game.
"He's a professional," Girardi said. "Lyle never gets too high or too low. He's a great teammate; the guys love him around here. They have a lot of fun with him. You think about where he was on that Wednesday or Thursday of spring training and where he is now -- a lot of big hits in the middle of our order."
"You kind of look back at it and I wonder if I had a chance, that kind of thing," Overbay said. "It just kind of worked out my way as far as being able to exist here better than [Juan] Rivera. That's why I want to kind of take it and enjoy it, because I could be sitting at home right now."
Or on the Yankees' bench next week. If that's the way it turns out, at least Lyle Overbay left Yankee fans with a terrific snapshot to remember him by.
QUESTION: When Teixeira comes back, would you automatically turn the starting first base job over to him?