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Momentum swing

Abreu could sway balance of power to the Yankees

NEW YORK -- Though the wisdom of taking on millions more dollars in salary at the trading deadline in the person of Bobby Abreu perhaps seemed suspect from a financial perspective, it never looked suspect from a baseball perspective, according to Joe Torre. Abreu was a player, a former All-Star who, despite a stunning lack of power since the 2005 All-Star Game, would be just the player to bolster a team trying to overcome the loss of two-thirds of its highly compensated, highly productive outfield.

And, even with an 0 for 3 with a strikeout and a relatively inconsequential error in yesterday's 12-2 loss to the Orioles, Abreu has been just that. Not only has his addition been a mental boost to the Yankees clubhouse, his bat has been even more of a boost to the offense, which at times has been lackluster with the losses of Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield.

``We made a list of players that we felt were available," Torre said. ``I think he was at the top of everybody's list just because of the type of hitter he is. Lefthanders don't bother him. He has real quality at-bats, can run the count to 3 and 2 as good as anybody, and he plays fine in the outfield and [has] the ability to run the bases.

``That's the type of team we've turned into this year with the absence of Matsui and Sheffield. I just felt he would fit. And, again, I'm not telling the ball club how to spend their money because that was certainly a concern. When you get into that area, I just say, `Ask me about the player, don't ask me about the liability.' As far as the opinion on the player, I just thought he would be an outstanding fit for us."

Coming to the Yankees along with fellow Phillie Cory Lidle, Abreu is hitting .361, with a .475 slugging percentage and a .451 on-base percentage in 16 games.

``We could have just sat back and been content, but knowing that you make the deals, you do feel good because you know that your team is going to be better," said Johnny Damon, who hit his 18th home run yesterday. ``The one thing I kept referring to is our team is going to be better. Instead of Bubba Crosby, you have Bobby Abreu. Or instead of Aaron Guiel, we have another righthanded bat, Craig Wilson [another trading deadline pickup]. The tough part is you make friendships, relationships, with the other guys, but the guys we've added are better players."

When last the Red Sox played the Yankees, the thought was the Sox could make up some ground on the injury-depleted Bronx Bombers. Though their biggest names still have yet to rejoin the roster, the Yankees could get a lot healthier soon. So, though it might create a logjam, that's certainly a risk the Yankees are willing to take.

Because the focus is now, as always, and now means Abreu.

``We knew stuff was being floated around before the trade deadline," Damon said. ``We weren't sure if anything was happening, so our next goal was trying to get through August so when we had September call-ups, that could be the time we activate Matsui, we activate Sheffield, just have them sit around. If we really need them to grab a bat, see what happens. After we got those guys [Abreu and Wilson], we were able to tell Sheffield and Matsui to stay on their projected dates, get healthy first before they join us."

While the Yankees are out $4.4 million for the remainder of this season and $15 million next season and at least a $2 million buyout in 2008, they have gained someone who consistently gets on base and makes things easier for the rest of the lineup. Damon said that now, with Abreu in the lineup, he has the luxury to swing earlier in the count. Because he knows Abreu (and Jason Giambi) usually spend a lot of time in the batter's box, he doesn't have the pressure of trying to wear out the pitcher.

``You always, always got to be patient," said Abreu, who flied to center to cap a seven-pitch, bases-loaded at-bat in the fifth inning in the Yankees' only chance for a comeback yesterday. ``I mean, that's part of the game, part of my game, I guess. I like to see pitches and I like to show the guys behind me what the pitcher throws. I don't think I have to change anything. The way that we're playing right now, I think we're playing good. We're facing [the Red Sox today]. We're just going to do our job over there."

When the Yankees arrive in Boston, the most significant difference between the last time the rivals met will be Abreu. Not only will he get his first taste of the rivalry, first place could be solidified in the series. Torre, talking before yesterday's game, said he hadn't spoken to any of the new members of the team about what to expect in the Hub.

He might mention the circus atmosphere that surrounds these games, but he's pretty sure the rest of the veterans in the clubhouse will have done it for him. They know what's coming next.

And, in Abreu, they know what they've got.

``It turned out to be a can't-miss opportunity for us," Damon said. ``It was a deal that we had to make.

``It's proving now to be pretty smart so far."

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