DENVER -- After scoring what proved to be the winning run on Brennan Boesch's infield single in the top of the ninth, Vernon Wells said, "I was like a little kid just jumping around. Then I quickly stopped and realized, 'OK, I got to go play third base, so I got to get my head together.' "
In a 3-2 win over the Rockies on Wednesday night, Wells played third base for the first time at any level in the bottom of the ninth. Manager Joe Girardi had seen him take ground balls there on a day when Wells was off earlier this season, and the seed was planted.
"You can learn a lot on an off-day," Girardi said.
For his part, Wells said he likes to take ground balls at third base about once a week "to keep my hands nice and loose" and has been doing it since his days in Toronto, where he began his career.
So with the Yankees leading 3-2 and closer Mariano Rivera on the mound, Wells was fielding ground balls thrown by first baseman Lyle Overbay.
Just played 3B behind Mo!!! #ThatJustHappened- Vernon Wells (@VernonWells10) May 9, 2013
"Taking ground balls while Mo was warming up," Wells said, "and then throw the ball around and I'm throwing the ball to Mariano Rivera, it's a cool feeling."
Wells, a left fielder, said before Rivera threw his first pitch, he looked at infield coach Mick Kelleher in the dugout. "He said, "You got to play in,' " Wells said, "And I'm like, 'What? This is already in.' It was an eye-opening experience, that's for sure." Rivera got Josh Rutledge to fly to center to open the ninth. Carlos Gonzalez, the next batter, hit a chopper that Wells moved to his left and gloved.
"Hopefully, instincts take over, go catch it," Wells said, relating his thoughts when the ball was hit his way. "Then hopefully you hit Lyle's glove on the other side of the field." Girardi said, "I didn't know if he could get to it. I felt if he could get to it, he'd make the play."
Wells didn't have to borrow a teammate's glove -- "my outfielder's glove is small anyway. So if ever four or five people get hurt in one game, I have a second baseman's glove also. Hopefully that one stays in the bag."
Clearly, Wells was enjoying this postgame give-and-take. And why not after doing something so totally different in his 1,631st career game.
"You have fun with this game, and that was one of the cooler moments of my career," Wells, 34, said, "I played short in high school, and that was just a couple years ago. But that was the last time I played the infield."
Wells went 3-for-4 and hit a two-run homer in the first. He scored the winning run. And he made his debut at third base behind Rivera. So which was better?
"I'm definitely going with playing third with Mariano on the mound," Wells said. "That's most likely is something that'll never happen again, but you never know."
Who knows, maybe some day Wells will catch Rivera.
"That'll never happen," Wells said.
Mass. schoolteacher named Honorary Bat Girl
DENVER -- Lisa Forte-Doyle was selected as the winner for the Yankees in the 2013 Honorary Bat Girl Contest that recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and have shown a commitment to eradicating the disease. One winner is chosen for each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams and will be honored this Sunday on Mother's Day.
Since the Yankees are not home on Mother's Day, Forte-Doyle, an English teacher in Chatham High School in Chatham, Mass., will be honored at a Yankees home game later this month.
On the final day of classes in 2010, Forte-Doyle was cleaning her classroom when she received a call from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, informing her that the lump she had discovered in her breast was malignant and she had breast cancer. "I was unsure of my future and broke down in tears," Forte-Doyle wrote in her submission to the contest. "I was contemplating how I would tell my two sons, who were in high school and seventh grade at the time."
That winter she endured eight weeks of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation treatment daily and a mastectomy. Forte-Doyle was born and raised on the Grand Concourse, mere blocks from Yankee Stadium, and it was there she first told her brother of her diagnosis. "It is my second home, and the Yankees are my second family," Forte-Doyle wrote, adding that if chosen as the Yankees Honorary Bat Girl, she would dedicate the honor to her 93-year-old mother, who was also born and raised in New York and lives on Cape Cod.
"She is the greatest Yankees fan I know," Forte-Doyle wrote. "She saw Ruth and Gehrig play in the old stadium, now I would love for her to see me on the field in the new one." Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia was part of a six-person judging panel that helped select the winner for each Major League club along with fan votes.
Nunez not quite ready to return
DENVER -- Shortstop Eduardo Nunez (left rib-cage tightness) is unlikely to be ready to play Thursday. He did some light throwing and went through some motions as if taking ground balls Wednesday and said he felt better but still "a little tight."
Manager Joe Girardi said, "He went out and tried to do some stuff, and it's still not quite where it needs to be."
Nunez did not attempt to swing a bat Wednesday. Girardi said Nunez must be pain free and then do drills in the indoor batting cage -- hitting off a tee and hitting soft tosses from a coach -- without discomfort before trying to test his rib cage by swinging all-out.
Citing lineup limitations, Girardi hits pitcher eighth
DENVER -- Pitcher David Phelps batted eighth and catcher Austin Romine ninth Wednesday as manager Joe Girardi, who has had to write out some unusual lineups due to a slew of injuries, took a more radical approach.
The Rockies have two left-handed relievers -- Josh Outman and Rex Brothers. With the exception of backup catcher Chris Stewart, Girardi's bench Wednesday had one available right-handed hitter in Ben Francisco, plus Brennan Bosch and Travis Hafner, who bat left-handed.
At the top of his lineup, Girardi had Brett Gardner and Robbie Cano, both left-handed hitters. So if Girardi were to bat Bosch or Hafner for his pitcher, he would have three successive left-handed batters, making it easier for Rockies manager Walt Weiss to match up with Outman or Brothers.
"It's not like I'm trying to re-invent the game," Girardi said. "It's not like I'm trying to make something up. I'm trying to maximize our pinch-hitters and the people we have in our lineup. That's the bottom line. So how do you do that? If you had right-handed bats you could put in between the lefties, you don't worry about it as much. We don't have that. So you're trying to get the hitters that have had the most success off of right-handers up the most and you're also trying to make it more complicated for the other manager to navigate through your lineup."
"And sometimes you may have to do some things that maybe are a little unorthodox, but you got to do it." Girardi added, explaining that the decision was not directed at Romine, who had three hitless at-bats in two games before Wednesday.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a Yankees starting pitcher batted eighth was Don Larsen on Aug. 28, 1957. The last American League starter to bat eighth was the Royals' Zack Greinke, on June 23, 2009.
Girardi said in the past that while broadcasting, he spoke about hitting the pitcher eighth with Tony La Russa, who employed the tactic often while managing the Cardinals as a way to have No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols bat with as many men on base as possible.
"And I'm trying to put more hitters in a sense in front of Robbie Cano, but also get him as many at-bats as possible," Girardi said.
The Yankees have 10 players on the disabled list, including Kevin Youkilis, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, who are rehabilitating at their spring training complex in Tampa, and Curtis Granderson, who finished a stint there and was scheduled to travel from Tampa to Triple-A Scranton on Thursday.
"If I had my normal lineup, this probably wouldn't happen," Girardi said. "But our normal lineup's in Tampa."
Nova hopes to return to Yankees next week
TAMPA, Fla. -- Ivan Nova pitched more than expected Wednesday afternoon. The good news was that he also felt better than expected.
Nova gave up two runs in four-plus innings in an extended spring game against the Blue Jays at the Yankees' Minor League complex, his first outing since going on the 15-day disabled list with right triceps inflammation on April 27. Nova hoped that his next stop would put him back in the Yankees' rotation for Monday's doubleheader against the Indians.
In Denver, manager Joe Girardi said Nova reported no pain or health problems, but his command wasn't real sharp.
"It's going to be in five days, so I can keep doing my work here, do my bullpen here, do everything I've got to do here and then be ready to go," Nova said, though he admitted that he doesn't actually know what's next for him. "If they call me up for Monday, then [on] Sunday, see ya."
Nova threw all his pitches as he gave up five hits and three walks while striking out five. The right-hander said he was a little cautious in his first two innings because he didn't know how his arm would react and whether he would feel the same inflammation that forced him to exit early from his April 26 start.
"The first two innings, I was scared," Nova said. "It was more than what I expected. Every time you get hurt, you expect it to last and feel it a little bit."
But Nova didn't feel anything afterward. At one point, he struck out five over a seven-batter stretch. He worked in quite a few curveballs -- the pitch that brought on the pain in his most recent start -- and came out of it feeling fine.
Asked if he'd been given a plane ticket to Cleveland, Nova broke into a big smile and laughed.
"Not yet," he said. "I wish."
• Outfielder Curtis Granderson played behind Nova in Wednesday's extended spring game and homered to center field in the second inning. Granderson played two innings in center field, moved to right field for two more innings then shifted to left field after that. GIrardi said Granderson will go to Scranton on Thursday, although might not play. He will play the corner-outfield positions there in addition to center field.
• Alex Rodriguez (left hip surgery) reported to the Yankees' Himes Complex in Tampa, Fla., for his third day of work. Rodriguez went through a workout similar to his first day of baseball activities: jogging, playing catch and hitting off a tee. He left without speaking to reporters.
• Right-hander Michael Pineda (right shoulder surgery) is set to make another start in an extended spring game next Monday. General manager Brian Cashman said recently Pineda's fastball has been clocked in the mid-90 mph range. Pineda said he's been feeling good on the mound lately, but he doesn't know how far off he is from a Minor League rehab assignment.
"I don't know. Not that long, because I'm feeling good, working hard and getting ready," Pineda said.
The only bit of bad news for Pineda on Wednesday: The back passenger-side window of his SUV was shattered by a ball hit into the players' lot during batting practice.
• The Yankees entered Wednesday with a five-game losing streak at Coors Field dating back to June 20, 2002, their longest current losing streak at any opposing ballpark. It matches the Yankees' longest losing streak at a National League ballpark. They also lost five straight at Veterans Stadium in Phildelphia from Sept. 1, 1997, to June 8, 1999 -- their first five interleague road games against the Phillies.