Kevin Long could continue to take pride Sunday in the results of the work he did with Curtis Granderson on his swing last August, the gift that keeps on giving.
“It feels pretty good,” the Yankees’ hitting coach said after Granderson delivered the tiebreaking three-run, fifth-inning shot in Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Jays, the center fielder’s eighth homer this season and 22nd since the swing change. Granderson is batting .281 with 18 RBI in the 16-9 start.
It’s still relatively early, but there have been troubling signs in the first month from a few of Long’s other pupils, namely Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Brett Gardner seems to be coming around. Jeter and Posada, though, can’t help but have people wondering if old age is setting in. But after the finale of the 4-3 homestand, Long spoke about improvement by them as well as Gardner.
The 36-year-old Captain’s improvement was really hard to see during his latest 0-for-3 effort, which dropped him to .242. He couldn’t get anything in the air, grounding to short, bouncing to short, resulting in him reaching on a fielder’s choice, and reaching after he struck out swinging at a wild pitch. He was also hit by a pitch.
Jeter, who did all that work with Long on changing to strideless mechanics, has been up 95 times and owns just 23 hits, only two for extra bases, both doubles. He’s 51 hits away from 3,000 after a 4-for-21 homestand.
Joe Girardi had spoken before Sunday’s game about Jeter using his legs more in the batter’s box and getting the ball in the air during Saturday’s game when he also went 0 for 3.
“His at-bats have been better,” Long said. “He seems to be more comfortable at the plate. I see his BP being really good right now. I’m waiting for that game to come where he drives a few balls. … But I’m comfortable with where he’s at and what he’s doing.”
Jorge Posada wasn’t doing much at 0 for 19, 1 for 29 and 9 for 73 on the season after bouncing weakly to second in his first at-bat Sunday. Then he pulled a double to right to open the fifth and ignite a four-run rally. The 39-year-old DH was also robbed of a single on a diving stop by second baseman John McDonald the following inning. So he raised his average from .125 to .133, with six homers and 12 RBI. He went 1 for 16 on the homestand.
“He looks a lot more comfortable,” Long said. “The last two games, he’s been able to bat the ball up. He’s recognizing pitches. He’s swinging at strikes. I’ve been pleased with Jorge’s at-bats.”
Gardner has indeed shown signs of life in his recent at-bats. He sandwiched two walks around a line single to right and finished with a 6-for-13 homestand, bringing him up to .200.
“He’s turned it around,” Long said. “Obviously he’s had several good games as of late. He seems like the Brett Gardner that we saw last year, getting on base, causing havoc, playing great defense.
“In a nutshell, they were pitching him away. … So he moved up on the plate. It’s helped him a great deal.”
So what do you think? Gardner should be OK. Jeter and Posada could still turn it around, too. But are you worried that they won’t?