If the date doesn’t ring a bell, the game surely will.
It was June 27, and the Yankees were in Los Angeles for the final game of a interleague road trip. Down four runs in the ninth, the Yankees tied it against closer Jonathan Broxton, then won it on Robinson Cano’s home run in the 10th. Chad Huffman was one of the stars of the game with two hits, including a big two-run single in the ninth.
Brett Gardner remembers that game.
Huffman playing only because Gardner had been hit by a pitch in the third inning. Clayton Kershaw hit him in the wrist, and Gardner was never the quite same. On Tuesday, Gardner will have surgery to relieve right wrist tendonitis that has lingered ever since that errant pitch in L.A.
“I’ve never been one to make excuses, but it definitely affected me,” Gardner said in a phone interview. “When something like that’s bothering you, I don’t know how much it affected my swing and my approach in the game, but it kept me from being able to work on things in the cage. I just tried to battle through it at the end of the season.”
Leading into that afternoon game at Dodger Stadium, Gardner was red hot. In his previous 21 games, he’d hit .406 with a .480 on-base percentage. He was rolling, but things changed that day.
Through June 27: .321/.403/.418.
70 G, 76 H, 31 BB, 38 K, 24 SB
After June 27: .232/.363/.340
80 G, 56 H, 48 BB, 64 K, 23 SB
Gardner remained patient at the plate, which kept his on-base percentage high enough to have an impact on the bases, but he wasn’t making the same solid, consistent contact. A cortisone shot in September, Gardner said today, had no measurable impact. He basically stopped all of his cage work with Kevin Long, believing he had to, in his words, “save my bullets for the game.”
The Yankees hoped time off would fix he problem, but a month into the offseason, Gardner’s wrist still hurts.
“It might be a little better than how I was at the end of the season, but it still isn’t close to how it should feel,” he said. “I’ve got to get it fixed, and thankfully there’s nothing too involved with the rehab. Just let it heal up after the surgery.”
I don’t want to paint an inaccurate picture. When I asked Gardner whether the injury affected his numbers at the end of the season, Gardner laughed and didn’t want to answer. I’ve known him for four years, and he’s legitimately one of those guys who doesn’t like to complain or make an excuse. But the numbers are what they are, and they seem to perfectly hinge on that one pitch in L.A. It might not be the only reason his numbers dipped, but the injury seems to account for at least some of the downturn.
Gardner said he’s been told it will be three to five weeks before he’s back to 100 percent. That doesn’t put him too far off schedule in terms of getting back in the cage, but it will affect some of his offseason workouts. Small price to pay, Gardner said.
“That’s not nearly as important as going into spring training and into the season healthy,” he said.
Associated Press photo