Lillibridge's glove affair with Yankees

July, 24, 2013

ARLINGTON, Texas -- On April 25, 2011, a late defensive replacement for the Chicago White Sox made two spectacular plays in right field at Yankee Stadium, one to rob Alex Rodriguez and the other to rob Robinson Cano, to preserve a 3-2 win over the Yankees.

That was the first time Brent Lillibridge killed the Yankees with his glove.

Tuesday night at The Ballpark in Arlington was nearly the second time Lillibridge killed the Yankees with his glove, although this time he was wearing their uniform.

[+] EnlargeBrent Lillibridge
AP Photo/LM OteroBrent Lillibridge drove in the game-winning run in the ninth inning of the Yankees' 5-4 win over Texas.
Lillibridge, picked up in a trade with the Chicago Cubs a month ago and called up from Triple-A Scranton last Friday, was charged with an error in the sixth inning that led to three unearned runs, and (for a time) appeared likely to cost the Yankees the game. It was a tough call, a smoking one-hopper to his glove side that skipped over his shoulder and easily could have been scored a hit. But Lillibridge took the error and the grief that went with it, as he saw the Yankees go down to their final two outs still trailing 4-3 and with Travis Hafner in the on-deck circle preparing to hit for him.

But all of a sudden, Lillibridge's night took a turn for the better. Eduardo Nunez, hitting in front of him, drove one over the head of Rangers' center fielder Craig Gentry, tying the game at 4. Joe Girardi decided that rather than pull Lillibridge and have to send catcher Chris Stewart out to play third, he'd call Hafner back and allow Lillibridge to hit for himself.

As it became obvious that Girardi would change his mind about using Hafner, Lillibridge said, "I started creeping back over, stopped pouting after a couple pitches and said, ‘Hey, I have a chance to maybe be able to hit again.'" When Lillibridge lined a Joe Nathan slider into left to knock in the go-ahead run, his story of redemption was complete.

“It’s amazing how baseball sometimes works," he said. "I was glad we were able to hold it close and get an opportunity late against a great closer. It was a great opportunity, and I was able to come through with it. If I had just made the play in the first place, we wouldn’t have had to worry about it.”

Lillibridge had also driven in the Yankees' third run of the night on a grounder to second that Ian Kinsler threw home in an unsuccessful attempt to nab Vernon Wells at the plate. Still, the misplay in the sixth hung over him until that final at-bat three innings later.

“I carried it with me my next couple at-bats," he said. "But I told myself to just give it up, have good at-bats, play good defense and try not to overdo something and make up for it. I didn’t try to swing too hard or do too much, and it was able to pay off.”

With Luis Cruz likely headed to the disabled list with a knee injury, Lillibridge -- who has played every position but pitcher and catcher in his six major league seasons -- will probably see more time at third, although the Yankees will no doubt call up an infielder, probably David Adams, to take Cruz's roster spot.

“You come in here as a new guy, you want to just make the plays, do your job, not make too many waves and get yourself comfortable," Lillibridge said. "It is what it is. I was able to make up for it in a big win. I was just excited to help.”
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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