Notes: Torre understands sideshow

Notes: Torre understands sideshow

SAN FRANCISCO -- For years, since it became apparent that Barry Bonds would march inexorably toward Hank Aaron's all-time home run mark, the Giants have insisted that their slugger's record chase doesn't break their concentration from everyday baseball duties.

But, Joe Torre asks, how can it not divert attention?

Without criticizing Bonds or the Giants, Torre said that anything not directly geared toward a winning effort is bound to affect a player or team.

"I think it could be a distraction," the Yankees manager said on Saturday when asked whether Bonds' pursuit of Aaron could test a team's focus. "It may have been the same situation with Cal [Ripken Jr.] and his [consecutive-game] streak. It's something I think our society is geared toward, whether it's people hitting home runs or establishing records. They want to be there for this particular occasion. It's something that's a part of this game, but certainly sometimes it takes precedence over the game."

Reminded that Roger Clemens' quest for his 300th career victory in 2003 was mostly devoid of unnecessary fuss, Torre pointed out that the Yankees are all about team accomplishments, not individual ones.

With the Yankees, Torre said, "Winning has always been a priority. And it sort of makes it easy to accomplish goals here ... Sometimes, it's easier to accomplish individual goals when you're not thinking about them."

Veni, vidi, Vinnie: The Giants' plummeting fortunes have obscured the recent effectiveness of their relief pitching, particularly Vinnie Chulk's work.

Chulk entered Saturday with 15 scoreless appearances in his previous 17 outings, trimming his ERA from 4.61 to 2.93. Attributing his improvement partly to pitching mechanics, Chulk said that he's "throwing downhill" more frequently, helping him extend his arm more fully with each delivery.

"I'm throwing a little harder and getting that extra jump at the end of each pitch," said Chulk, who leads the team with 31 appearances.

Chulk has also maintained a more aggressive approach. "I'm trying not to 'pick' as much as I was at the beginning of the season," he said.

Injury update: Outfielder Fred Lewis (strained right oblique) has begun an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Fresno. Manager Bruce Bochy said that no target date has been set for the return of Lewis, who hit .244 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 23 games before going on the 15-day disabled list on June 9.

Right-hander Russ Ortiz (strained throwing forearm) reported no ill effects from playing catch on Friday, the first day he tried throwing since going on the DL on June 7. Ortiz, who made about 40-50 throws on flat ground at a distance of roughly 60 feet, said he'll continue that process daily until he regains enough arm strength to try pitching off a mound.

Candlestick memories: Torre looked at the high, bright sky above AT&T Park and was immediately reminded of Candlestick Park, the Giants' former home.

"The thing that was tough was [a day] like today. There were no clouds up there," Torre said. "With the wind, popups would drop and it wouldn't be anything that you'd show over and over again, because it would happen all the time."

Sure enough, New York's Hideki Matsui launched an ionosphere-scraping popup in the second inning that no Giants infielder seemed to want until third baseman Pedro Feliz snared it at the last possible instant with a basket catch.

Torre, a .297 hitter in 18 Major League seasons, said that he liked hitting at Candlestick due to the preponderance of day games played there. Torre recorded a .281 average with 13 homers and 62 RBIs in 101 games at the 'Stick.

But, he added, "In the years that they didn't have fast guys at second and short, they grew that grass [extremely] high, so every time you thought you had a single up the middle, you wound up hitting into a double play."

Coming up: The Giants and Yankees will conclude their Interleague series on Sunday beginning at 1:05 p.m. PT. Giants left-hander Noah Lowry (6-6, 3.74 ERA) will oppose New York right-hander Mike Mussina (3-4, 5.10 ERA).

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.