CLEARWATER, Fla. — He wears navy pinstripes now, and this was an altered reality Raul Ibanez had trouble rationalizing. The first time he put on a Yankees uniform, Ibanez said he looked down and couldn't believe it. Now he's one of them. The pain of being a Phillie and falling short to New York in the 2009 World Series had to end.
"That was my best memory and my worst memory," Ibanez said. "My toughest memory was watching the Yankees celebrate out there. It felt so close that you could touch it."
On Saturday, Ibanez returned to Bright House Field with the Yankees. He signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with New York right as spring training began.
As he emerged from the visitors dugout for the first time, there were fans who screamed "Raauuulll!" The 39-year-old outfielder used Saturday as a chance to say thanks for three years with the Phillies.
"My time in Philadelphia was nothing short of extraordinary," Ibanez said. "It's an amazing organization. Great people. Tremendous fans. I have a lot of friends over there. I'm glad to be able to come back and say hello."
Ibanez will mostly serve as a designated hitter against righthanded pitchers for Joe Girardi's Yankees. It's somewhat of a homecoming for Ibanez, who was born in Manhattan.
He said the Phillies had minimal talks about him returning in a reduced role. But there was never a formal offer. Ibanez harbors no hard feelings.
"I'd rather just leave it the way it is," he said. "I'm thankful for the organization and the opportunity I got to play there. There was some talk. It was a reduced role. But again, my biggest thing is I just feel grateful to the organization for having played over there for three years. Great human beings."
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