NEW YORK -- Like most of his teammates, Dan Pasqua sat in the New York Yankees' dressing room after a recent victory and munched on a post-game meal of pasta and salad. Unlike most of his teammates, he was still in uniform -- dirty knees and all.
Following a hellish spring that began with the death of his mother and ended with him being shipped to the minor leagues after entering training camp with the left-field job apparently his, Pasqua was thrilled when he was recalled by the Yankees May 18. Now that he's earned back his pinstripes, the 24-year-old seems genuinely reluctant to take them off.
'It was a big letdown to be sent down,' Pasqua said of his demotion to Columbus of the International League. 'I was in a lousy slump, a spring-long slump. It was just unfortunate it happened at that time.'
Pasqua joined the Yankees last July after compiling numbers with Columbus that were good enough to earn him the International League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.
He then hit nine homers and collected 25 RBI in 60 games for New York as the Yankees challenged the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League East title until the final weekend of the season.
Given all that -- plus a left-handed swing that's made for Yankee Stadium's short right field -- Pasqua came to spring training with a better-than-even shot at winning the regular left fielder's job.
Pasqua's mother died early in spring training, and the team gave him a few days off to head home and be with his family. Undoubtedly distracted by the loss, Pasqua was not the same ballplayer when he returned. Every at-bat became an adventure. His confidence was shaken.
'His problems were more mental than mechanical,' said former Yankee Bobby Murcer, now a broadcaster for the team. 'He went to spring training and the job was his -- and he didn't do the job. He was pressing.
'Give him credit, though. He went down and worked himself out of it.'
Indeed he did. Last Wednesday night, in his first start since being recalled, Pasqua drove in four runs with a homer and a double to lead the Yankees to a 10-4 victory over the Oakland A's. The next night, he hit two homers -- the second in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score - as New York won 4-3 in 11 innings.
'(The one-homer night) was a bigger thrill because it was my first start since I've been back,' Pasqua said. '(The next night), it's more like you know what I can do. I just went out and did it.'
Yankees manager Lou Piniella, who was the team's batting coach last year, also knows what Pasqua can do. When Pasqua arrived in New York from Columbus, Piniella offered some simple office -- 'You're here to hit home runs.'
Murcer said youth worked against Pasqua, as well.
'He's sometimes impatient at the plate,' said Murcer, who like Pasqua had a stroke tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. 'He was swinging at pitches out of the strike zone and making outs. If he's patient, he'll get a pitch to hit out every time up. He can be a big part of this ballclub.'
Which is exactly what Pasqua wants.
'I like hitting here (at Yankee Stadium),' he said. 'I want to play regularly. It's just a matter of getting your confidence back, and you'll be OK. I think I've got mine back.'