Brett Gardner had three hits today. The third was notable only because it made him 3-for-3; it was the first two that were really worth watching.
Bunt single up the third-base line
Remember when Phil Hughes kept coming to spring training and talking about his changeup? It’s a similar thing with Gardner and bunting. He’s always known it should be a significant weapon for him, but he’s never done it consistently in the big leagues. Today he dropped a perfect bunt where the Orioles never had a chance to get him.
“I have (worked on it) a lot,” Gardner said. “I feel really good with it. (That was) a situation where he’s playing me back, (but) it wouldn’t have mattered if he was playing in, probably. Just trying to stay in there, take my time, make a good bunt. It’s something I plan on doing a lot of.”
Joe Girardi said the Yankees have always encouraged Gardner to work on bunting — “We started encouraging when we first saw him,” Girardi said — but the Yankees made no point of telling Gardner to work on it this winter. He set that priority himself.
“It could be a big weapon,” Gardner said. “Especially if I get consistent with backing the ball up in the zone and hitting it hard to the left side; make that third baseman think about coming in a little too far. I’ll try and continue to work on it, especially during games, and try to get better at it.”
Infield single to the first baseman
It was a race between Gardner and Orioles starting pitcher Brian Matusz. At some point, it became clear Gardner was going to step on the bag first, but it also seemed Matusz might be able to get the feed from first baseman Chris Davis and slap a tag on Gardner. So Gardner slid headfirst into first base. Couldn’t help himself.
“Not even after what happened to Curtis yesterday, I guess,” Gardner said. “… I’ve collided with the pitcher on those plays before. The pitcher’s had a throw up the line and reached out and tagged me in the chest before I touched the bag before. It’s the kind of thing where, it’s almost just habit.”
Both Girardi and Gardner said there was no manager-to-player conversation after the play — “He’s said it enough to me where he probably knows it’s going in one ear and out the other,” Gardner said — but Girardi said he might say something to Gardner tomorrow. Fact is, everyone understands the situation. It’s a dangerous play that only helps to avoid a tag. It might have helped Gardner today, but was it worth the risk?
“I know during the season it becomes instinctual,” Girardi said. “But right now you don’t want to see him get his hand stepped on. … The hard thing is, it’s instinctual. But no matter how many times you tell a guy, I mean, how many times do you think I told Bernie? Just, when they’re hustling and playing hard, it happens.”
Associated Press photo