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Gardner: “Hopefully I fit in there somewhere”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Jan 16, 2010 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

At this moment, left field at Yankee Stadium belongs to Brett Gardner. The only other options on the Yankees roster are a Rule 5 pick and a few minor leaguers with spring training invitations, but as I wrote in today’s Journal News, Gardner knows the position won’t be handed to him quite so easily.

“I just want to be in there and play and contribute,” he said from his home in South Carolina. “Hopefully I’ll be playing every day. I’m sure they’re going to look at a couple of different options, and hopefully I fit in there somewhere.”

The Yankees remain in the market for an outfielder, and Brian Cashman has expressed an interest in a right-handed hitter to complement switch-hitting Nick Swisher and lefties Gardner and Curtis Granderson. Most of the names being suggested — including the ever-present possibility of Johnny Damon — could be more than role players, they could win the left-field job outright.

And so, Gardner is at home, getting himself ready to fight for an everyday job. He said he plans to arrive in spring training more than two weeks before position players are scheduled to report, and until then, he’ll be working on his own to address the shortcomings of a largely successful rookie season.

———

Approach at the plate
“I just need to be more aggressive and put some balls in play.”

In the minor leagues, Gardner established himself as a dangerous hitter at the top of the order. Pitchers wouldn’t work around him, but they pitched carefully against him. Opening with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2008, Gardner walked just 12 times in April, but he also hit .299 and slugged .494 that month. Triple-A pitchers then walked him 25 times in May and 24 times in June. Gardner is not going to get the same respect in the big leagues, and he’s going to have to adjust.

“Hitting ninth, the very last thing they’re going to do is walk me,” Gardner said. “So they’re going to throw me a lot of fastballs, which I saw a lot last year… It’s one of those things that I’ve got to get over the hump. I’ve got to get more aggressive. I can’t fall behind.”

Bunting
“There are days when I bunt more than 100 balls.”

Gardner has been an effective bunter in the past. He played just 55 Double-A games in 2006 and had 18 bunt hits. As he got higher in the minor league system, though, Gardner stopped bunting nearly as much so that he could use those at-bats to hone his swing. His extra-base hits went up in 2007 and again in 2008, but he lost his feel and confidence for bunting.

“It’s something I got away from that I shouldn’t have ever gotten away from,” he said. “The idea was, instead of wasting forty or fifty at-bats a year, swing the bat.”

This offseason: “I (bunt) every day,” Gardner said. “And obviously as spring training gets closer, I’ll be doing it more and more. And when we get to spring training, I’ll be doing it more and more.”

Postseason baserunning
“Physically I was ready, I just don’t think I was ready mentally.”

It’s hard to complain about Gardner’s regular-season baserunning. He was 26-for-31 on steal attempts, with three of the five caught-stealings coming during an 0-for-3 stretch in July. In the playoffs, though, Gardner was 1-for-3 stealing bases. With ALCS Game 2 tied in the seventh inning, he pinch ran for Nick Swisher but never attempted to take second. Robinson Cano grounded into a double play on the fourth pitch of the at-bat.

“I wasn’t aggressive enough,” Gardner said.

———

“Everything is a learning experience, especially at this point for me. There are always things you wish you could go back and do differently, but let’s face it, we won a World Series and that’s something we’re all very fortunate to be a part of.”

One thing I’ve always respected about Gardner’s career is his steady improvement. I watched him leave Triple-A in 2008, strikeout 17 times in 17 big league games, come back to the minors and immediately make strikeout adjustments. He had five Ks, nine walks and 20 hits in his last 13 Triple-A games that year. 

I can’t tell you whether Gardner be better in 2010 than he was in 2009, but I know he was better when he went back to New York at the end of 2008, and I know he was better still in 2009. I thought Gardner was pretty good last year, and his previous numbers tell me to believe him when he says he’s working on being better this season.

Double-A in 2006: .272/.352/.318
Double-A in 2007: .300/.392/.419

Triple-A in 2007: .260/.343/.331
Triple-A in 2008: .296/.414/.422

New York in 2008: .228/.283/.299
New York in 2009: .270/.345/.379
New York in 2010:  — / — / —

 
 

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46 Responses to “Gardner: “Hopefully I fit in there somewhere””

  1. Rich in NJ January 16th, 2010 at 10:19 am

    He needs to stop uppercutting the ball.

  2. GreenBeret7 January 16th, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Doreen – Ain’t it Just “Grand”?
    January 16th, 2010 at 9:51 am
    Yankee Trader -

    Thanks for linking.

    Chad – Good reading. I am encouraged by Gardner’s work, and especially by the acknowledgment that he needs to (and apparently is) work(ing) on his bunting.

    ————————————————————

    Looks like Gardner has been reading my yammerings about how poorly he bunts.

    Seriously, though, if he can do what Brett Butler, Juan Pierre and Ichiro Suzuki did and have done throughout their careers, which is to produce 50+ infield hits a year, his value will skyrocket. I’m not in anyway comparing Gardner to Suzuki, just stating that with Gardner’s speed and the correct hitting approach, that’s an easy target.

  3. upstate kate January 16th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Becoming better at bunting will benefit Gardner whatever role he ends up with…wow, that is a lot of b’s.
    John Heyman said on mlb hot stove he still thinks Damon ends up w/ the Yankees.

    Good for Alex for his fund raising efforts. David Ortiz has organized a fund raiser, and so have other teams and individual players. I like to think the Yankees have a part in that in jumping in first.

  4. Brian $$$$man January 16th, 2010 at 10:27 am

    John Damon will not be a member of the 2010 Yankees. Bernie Williams is making a comeback and will be a parttime OF. We also signed Sal Zuccaro.

  5. Rich in NJ January 16th, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Repost:

    m

    “Why are people stuck on the $2M? If the Yankees want Damon, they’ll get Damon. They’re not going to let him go because there’s only $2M left in the “budget”.”

    Because that is what has been reported.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/blogs/…..GsgSMXP29M

    So while many reporters don’t have much to offer in terms of analysis, they have beter sources than most of us, and using that information as a point of departure for discussion seems reasonable.

    Notice, however, that I used the word “if.”

  6. Erin January 16th, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Sounds like Gardner’s working hard.

    Good job by Alex for his fundraising efforts :)

  7. Joe from Long Island January 16th, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Nice analysis, Chad.

    This is why I really think that Cashman is serious when he says Brett is the LF, and why Johnny Damon is on the outside looking in. The need is for a RH OF, and not another lefty bat.

    RAB had another intriguing article yesterday, this time about Conor Jackson. I don’t know how realistic that possibility is, but it sure sounds good.

  8. pat January 16th, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Good for Brett working on his bunting. Hoping for the best but also hoping Cashman is preparing for the worst.

  9. burr January 16th, 2010 at 10:35 am

    good to hear. i really like gardner and i hope he keeps improving.

  10. Doreen - Ain't it Just "Grand"? January 16th, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Gardner is not my favorite, but I do have say that he really was set-back by his injury last season. He had been doing well in the games he was playing. But he was platooned. So, it remains to be seen what he’d do if he did end up with the everyday job. I imagine that, unless they go out and get someone to platoon with, he will get ample opportunity in ST to hit lefties.

  11. Tarheelyank January 16th, 2010 at 10:37 am

    He said all the right things. It’s an encouraging sign.

    I can see how working on his swing got him away from bunting. I am not sure I totally blame Brett for that. It seems to me, to be as much as an organizational oops, as it his fault. Thanks Chad.

  12. GreenBeret7 January 16th, 2010 at 10:39 am

    The worst thing that happened to Gardner in 2009 was to hit those 3 spring training homers and the two early season homers over the fence. He seemed to get the idea that he might be a slugger.

  13. Stan January 16th, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Even if Brett Gardner scratches and claws his way to the opening day LF through hard work and determination, the Yankees still need another OF and not one with a noodle arm playing LF like it’s an adventure.
    As of now, Jamie Hoffman is a longshot so it will need to come from in house or elsewhere.

  14. scooter10 January 16th, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I’m all for Gardner given a chance to play every day. He adds an unique element to our lineup. Sign a $2m a year guy, see what Hoffmann gives you and we can always look for a midseason trade.

  15. Fan4Life January 16th, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I appreciate the work ethic Brett has put in. He obiously has some nice tools that compliment the team. I still think Hairston will join along with Thames. I hate to see Johnny go, but once again Mr. Boras played his cards horribly.

  16. Bronx Jeers January 16th, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I was lucky enough to see Brett’s inside-the-parker live. Very cool.

    On replay I timed it at about 13.4 seconds.

    And he never lost his gum.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhER4pk5KX8

  17. blake January 16th, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Signing Damon makes the lineup stronger and strenthens the bench as well because it allows Gardner to be there. The outfield defense would be the same as last year unless you consider Granderson better than Melky and then its better. Damon also gives the Yankees a guy who could step in and DH if NJ gets hurt.

    You don’t give Damon two years but if its one year for 5 or 6 million then I think its a no brainer.

  18. bronxbrain January 16th, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I really hope that Gardner gets the job and is given (at least) half a season to show that he deserves it. Part of my reasoning is that I believe he possesses the necessary skills. But I am also hungry for home-grown, young Yankees. What bothered me most about the l980s and late 2000s was not the losing–although I hated that–but Big Stein’s lack of patience and lack of understand that a big-league club should be, at least partly, an organism that draws from its roots. As a fan, I want homegrown players to contribute significantly.

    If Gardner hits .275/.355/.385 this coming season, then we might reasonably debate his merits as a starting Yankee outfielder. But I will be happy that he played full time, if for no other reason that he got the chance to develop his skills. At the very least, the Yankees will have on their hands a trading chip that will have increased in value over the year.

  19. David in Cal January 16th, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Very nice article, Chad. blake, I agree that Damon would be a great acquisition as a 4th outfielder, but I don’t see the Yanks spending 5 to 6 million on a non-starting outfielder.

  20. dennis-Costanza January 16th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    GB7-

    Did you make it back home? How are you feeling? Need anything?

    -dennis

  21. Bronx Jeers January 16th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    It may be a no brainer but apparently it’s a “budget buster”

    IMO, going over budget by 1 or 2 % shouldn’t be an issue for the Yankees but my opinion and 2.25$ will get you on the subway.

  22. Brian $$$$man January 16th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Repeat after me kiddies: John Damon will not be a member of the 2010 New York Yankees.

  23. xxx January 16th, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Gardner takes the best-looking strike three in the business.

    Hopefully he lives up to his word and pulls the trigger more often.

  24. Rich in NJ January 16th, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Damon had a 126 OPS+ in 2009, the highest of his career. The idea that he would be a 4th OF is comical.

  25. Bronx Jeers January 16th, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Although I was never a big fan, it’s good to see “W” getting involved in this effort. Hopefully he can still mobilize “his base”

    Looks like he could use the services of a barber though.

  26. TheDrB January 16th, 2010 at 11:15 am

    A combination of timely drag bunts, slap singles and pounding the ball off of home plate could do very well for him. If he does get the chance, this is his year to break out. Otherwise, his Yankee bridges will be burned as far as the fans are concerned.

  27. GreenBeret7 January 16th, 2010 at 11:17 am

    dennis-Costanza
    January 16th, 2010 at 11:05 am
    GB7-

    Did you make it back home? How are you feeling? Need anything?

    -dennis

    ————————————————————

    Afternoon, Dennis. Yeah, I’m back home, now. Can’t think of a thing I need right now except a baseball game that I haven’t seen. Thank you and Miss amy for asking, though. My granddaughter gets my groceries and things for me. I really appreciate the thought.

    Right now, I’m still sort stuck at the house and not supposed to hang around with germy people. Doctors said that they’ll let me know after my next checkup when I’m allowed in polite society. Hopefully, I can get my dog, “Red Sox Killer” back.

    Hope all is well with you, Miss Amy and families.

  28. blake January 16th, 2010 at 11:17 am

    If they signed Damon it wouldn’t be as a 4th outfielder. It would be to play LF with Gardner coming in for defense late in games.

  29. Rich in NJ January 16th, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Gardner just needs a more level swing. It will increase his LD %and GR%, while reducing his FB%. If he can mix in some bunts at the right time, that’s ok too.

  30. Pasqua January 16th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Well, the discussion has just changed. Rocco Baldelli looks to be in the fold, via his Facebook page (complete with Yankee logo)

  31. AL Duque January 16th, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I would love to see Gardi as the everyday LF!

    But my brain tells me that Cash will get us another LF!

    :(

    Gardi as a 4th Outfielder is quite good too!

  32. Whatsa Matta U January 16th, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Gardner is what he is. A light hitting 4th outfielder, who’s out there for defense & speed. His numbers can slide up a little or down, but he’s not going to become a consistent enough player to man LF for a team like the Yankees. Not going to happen.

  33. Bronx Jeers January 16th, 2010 at 11:29 am

    If that’s really his facebook page.

    RAB just posted that Cash says that rumor is false.

  34. raymagnetic January 16th, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Just checked Facebook and apparently it’s true that Baldelli just came to an agreement with NY. If that’s his real page at least.

  35. Rich in NJ January 16th, 2010 at 11:30 am

    “Gardner is what he is. A light hitting 4th outfielder…”

    What’s Elllsbury? His OPS+ was very close to Gardner’s last season, and his defense was much worse.

  36. Chad Jennings January 16th, 2010 at 11:32 am

    So much for my long Brett Gardner post. Just talked to Brian Cashman about a false Rocco Baldelli rumor. That’s up as a new post.

  37. TheDrB January 16th, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Fake page. It says the same thing in an earlier post for March of 09.

  38. m January 16th, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Nice analysis, Chad. Let’s hope that Gardner stays true to form and will adjust to the majors like he’s adjusted to other levels.

    Lower expectations mean less chance of being disappointed. People think Gardner’s been in the majors a long time. It just seems that way. It wasn’t his first rodeo, but in a way it was. I say give the kid (guy) some time and a chance to grow into the role (whatever it may be).

    Rich,
    I see what you’re saying. I just want to say that I firmly believe that there are reasons Damon hasn’t signed. I don’t know what they are, but in my heart I don’t think it’s because we’ve “only” got $2M left to spend.

    If the Yankees want to sign a good player like Damon, they will. Let’s say it takes $6-7M to sign Damon for a year. Do you think they’d say, “Sorry, we can’t go $5M over budget”? Do you think they’d hold on to Gaudin over Damon, even if the budget was really a concern? I believe there is a budget, and the money is finite. But we’re really talking pennies here.

  39. ortforshort January 16th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Improve into what? A poor man’s Juan Pierre? I guess I’m just prejudiced against guys who slap at the ball. There’s obviously a low ceiling when you do that. I suppose if he develops the ability to be an outstanding bunter and to spoil good pitches by fouling them off until he could work a walk, he could be useful given his speed. A lof of ifs.

  40. Whatsa Matta U January 16th, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Rich in NJ,

    Who cares about Ellsbury? He sucks. I wasn’t comparing Gardner to Ellsbury.

  41. Whatsa Matta U January 16th, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Rocco Baldelli? Doesn’t he have rocco Baldelli disease, where he can’t play two games in a row?

  42. Mike S. January 16th, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    “still need another OF and not one with a noodle arm playing LF like it’s an adventure.”

    …and here I thought you were talking about Damon. ;-)

  43. Bryan January 16th, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    The Ellsbury comparison is an apt one, and with defense the new OBP in terms of market value, I would love to see Gardner get a shot to play everyday. As someone pointed out on Fangraphs, the Yankees are at a point where a difference of ~1 win isn’t worth the risk of locking up a more name brand OF long term.

  44. rover January 16th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Cashmans Rh bat. I think it is a mistake not to sighn the best player you can considering the budget if you must. If he turns out to be RH great. The trick is the best player possible regardless of the side he hits from.

  45. Ken A.K.A. Old Ranger January 16th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Yankees have a very fine defensive and offensive OF as of right now. They need a right handed hitting OF for CG and sometimes relief of Brett/Swisher but, I think Brett had better splits against LH then CG…by a very good margin,
    The pitchers will like the fly balls being caught, instead of dropping in for hits. Brett, CG and Swisher should be a huge improvement over last year.

  46. pistol pete January 17th, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Gardy, you fit on the bench. You’re a good defensive replacement late in games as well as a pinch runner but if you start your weaknesses will be exposed. Let’s stop fooling around. Sign Johnny, make peace, give him a yr at 5-6million with incentives. We’re losing a lot of post season and late game experience if we let both Matsui and damon go.


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