Four lefties in a row! In a lineup created by Joe Girardi! It’s a remarkable situation, the product of improved production from Ichiro Suzuki and a general lack of right-handed options with both Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis out of the lineup.
“We have a lot of lefties in there today, and Ichiro has been swinging OK so we moved him up,” Girardi said. “Without two of our right-handers, we just stacked them.”
It would probably be a more exciting story if Ichiro’s move up to the order were strictly a product of his .294 average during this road trip, but it’s not. Youkilis isn’t ready to play just yet, and the Yankees decided to give Wells a day off against a right-hander. Circumstances forced the Yankees to go with an unusual lineup, and Ichiro simply fit in the No. 2 spot.
But it’s certainly worth noting that Ichiro is starting to become productive again. Through his first nine games this season, Ichiro was hitting .161/.206/.258. In his past eight games, he’s hit .286/.333/.357. Obviously it’s not an overwhelming amount of production, but it’s a step in the right direction.
“I saw what he did for us last year,” Girardi said. “And it’s not like from October to April he aged a lot. Only six months. I know what we talked about last night, we talk about age when guys struggle at 39 years old. But I saw what he did last year. I saw what he did for the good part of the spring. I think his at-bats have been better and you just believe they’re going to come out of it.”
The video above is Girardi talking about Ichiro’s recent production, including the fact that Ichiro’s occasionally ugly swings — at times, he looks awfully bad when he swings and misses — have never been a true indication of whether Ichiro’s hot or cold.
• Youkilis is likely unavailable to pinch hit today, but that seems more precautionary than anything. “I’ll see how he goes through the day,” Girardi said. “I don’t know if he’s even going to do much out here, but my guess is probably not (available to pinch hit).”
• Will Youkilis play tomorrow? “That’s our hope,” Girardi said.
• Curtis Granderson took 15 swings in the cage today. That’s a pretty significant step and suggests he could be on the field for batting practice fairly soon. Playing in games should be the step after that. At this point, it’s clear that Granderson is ahead of Mark Teixeira in the rehab process.
• With a late flight out of Tampa tonight, the Yankees won’t have batting practice tomorrow. It’s a slightly later-than-usual report time for the team, with Derek Jeter scheduled to be with the team for the first time since spring training. Jeter will address the media tomorrow.
• Andy Pettitte takes the mound having won each of his first three starts this season. He’s never won each of his first four starts. “He pitched really well when he came back last year,” Girardi said. “The problem last year was, he got hit by a line drive. He’s such a competitor. It’s kind of like Derek, in a sense. Nothing really ever surprises you because we’ve seen him do it for such a long time and he’s such a competitor. If you look at one thing he’s really done well, he’s really given us distance. Maybe you don’t quite expect the distance that we’ve gotten out of him in the games, but I did expect him to pitch well.”
• Girardi has been happy with his team’s resiliency lately. “They’ve done a good job coming back in games during the course of this stretch,” Girardi said. “After getting off to a little bit of a slow start they’ve bounced back very well, so I’m pleased with that.”
Associated Press photo