Mientkiewicz was coming off the team bus into Jacobs Field, where the Yankees open the American League Division Series, when a cameraman walking backward stumbled and fell on Mientkiewicz's left foot.
The former Gold Glove Award winner has a history of injuries to his left ankle, which was broken when he was in the Minor Leagues, and he said that he feared he might not be able to play.
"I thought I was dead," Mientkiewicz said. "I've had a lot of damage to that left foot. If I stub my toe, it hurts. It scared me; I feel bad. I know the guy must feel awful. Accidents happen."
Yankees manager Joe Torre said that Mientkiewicz went through a battery of drills on the field to test the ankle in the afternoon hours and exited with satisfactory results, showing no restrictions.
"It's bizarre," Torre said. "That's what happens when you have a lot of people around. The guy, from my understanding, felt very bad about it. He was just trying to do his job, stumbled and fell backward, and trapped Dougie."
Mientkiewicz remained at the No. 9 spot in New York's starting lineup for Game 1 against Indians ace C.C. Sabathia. Joking that he is "still slow," Mientkiewicz kidded that he could still steal 15 bases in the series; on a more serious note, he indicated that he would let the Yankees know if his play is being hindered.
"I'm going to be honest with them," Mientkiewicz said. "This is bigger than me. I'm not going to play hero if I can't play."
Memory lane: If this postseason holds any different cache for Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, it revolves around the idea that so much of the roster has moved away from the grizzled, veteran attitudes of years past.
Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera are the four most notable examples of the "old guard," but the efforts of general manager Brian Cashman's youth movement are clearly visible. Five of the players on New York's 25-man ALDS roster made their Major League debuts in 2007.
"It really makes me think back to when I first came up," Jeter said. "It was me Pettitte, Mo, Jorge, and I think Bernie [Williams] started the trend. Our organization has always been known in the past for trading young players, signing the free agents and not giving young players an opportunity.
"We had an opportunity there in the early '90s where they kept us around and got back to our old philosophy. Now, they're letting young players come out. I think it says a lot about our organization. Everyone talks about that team at the Major League level. But we've done a pretty good job of rebuilding our organization."
Jeter said that the most important part of having the young players -- Joba Chamberlain, Shelley Duncan, Phil Hughes, Ross Ohlendorf and Bronson Sardinha comprise the rookie core -- around is not that they have youth or energy, but that they are doing the jobs they are asked to.
Torre said that Jeter has a look in his eye of "bring it on" for the playoffs.
"He just seems to like the competition," Torre said. "It's an exciting time. He's spoiled, for crying out loud. [The postseason] is all he's ever been in."
Changes in the works: The Yankees have thus far declined to name a starter for Game 4 (if necessary), and though it is widely believed that right-hander Mike Mussina will be tabbed, Torre said that he is leaving open the possibility of putting in a dark-horse candidate.
"I'm not discounting anything," Torre said.
Hypothetically, depending on how Chien-Ming Wang pitches on Thursday against Cleveland, he could come back to pitch in Game 4 (if necessary) on short rest. That would leave Pettitte available to pitch Game 5 on regular rest.
"Rules" made to be broken: The culmination of the weeks-old degradation of the "Joba Rules" could be unveiled on Thursday, as the Yankees have full usage of reliever Joba Chamberlain.
The 22-year-old setup man has been worked on back-to-back days and entered mid-inning, passing all exams with flying colors. Free to use Chamberlain as he wishes in the ALDS, Torre said that he has no set plans of how to use the right-hander, but he is satisfied that the rookie is ready for whatever the situation presents.
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Torre pointed to the Yankees' Sept. 23 game against the Blue Jays as a major turning point for Chamberlain, who relieved mid-inning for the first time to bail Luis Vizcaino out of an eighth-inning jam. Chamberlain struck out the Blue Jays' Adam Lind to end the frame, then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to record his first career save.
"That was a pretty good test right there," Torre said. "I know what we can do, and I think the game will dictate what we will do. He's been tested."
"Boss" excited: Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner spoke via telephone with Torre on Wednesday, the manager said, going over the 25-man roster for the ALDS and expressing his excitement for the series.
Torre said that he believes Steinbrenner will travel to New York for ALDS Games 3 and 4; a Yankee Stadium appearance would be Steinbrenner's first since Opening Day.
Bombers bits: Roger Clemens is still set to pitch Game 3. Torre said the right-hander was at Jacobs Field early on Thursday, running the stairways for cardio work. ... Jason Giambi will serve as a bench player in Game 1, but Torre said he would consider the 36-year-old slugger as a designated hitter or pinch-hitter. ... Hideki Matsui told Torre that he is free to play left field if necessary, and he has "no limitations" after having his right knee drained.
Coming up: The Yankees and Indians will play Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday at Jacobs Field, with left-hander Andy Pettitte (15-9, 4.05 ERA in 2007) facing off against right-hander Fausto Carmona (19-8, 3.06 ERA in 2007). First pitch is set for 5:07 p.m. on TBS.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.