Years ago, when he was a broadcaster, Joe Girardi had a conversation with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. The topic: La Russa’s preference for defying conventional wisdom by batting the pitcher eighth.
“I played for Tony,” Girardi said. “I knew everything Tony did was well thought out. I was just curious about his reasoning, and it made sense to me.”
The decision to bat David Phelps eighth tonight, Girardi said, was based on two things.
1. The Yankees best available pinch hitters are Travis Hafner and Brennan Boesch, two lefties. Essentially, late in the game, the pitcher’s spot in the order will be — most likely — a left-handed hitter, and Girardi wanted to avoid having three lefties in a row.
2. Robinson Cano is batting second to maximize his at-bats, and have a non-pitcher in the No. 9 spot means there are two traditional hitters batting in front of Cano the second time through the order.
“It’s not like I’m trying to reinvent the game,” Girardi said. “It’s not like I’m trying to make something up. I’m trying to maximize our pinch hitters and the people I have in our lineup. That’s the bottom line. So how do you do that? If you had some right-handed bats you could put between the lefties, you don’t worry about it as much. We don’t have that, so you’re trying to get the hitters who have had the most success off of right-handers up the most, and you’re also trying to make it more complicated for the other manager to navigate through your lineup. And sometimes you have to do some things that may be a little bit unorthodox, but you’ve got to do it.”
The video above is Girardi talking a little more about his decision to bat the pitcher eighth, which he said is likely to happen again tomorrow.
• Curtis Granderson is going to start a Triple-A rehab assignment tomorrow. Girardi said Granderson will continue to play all three outfield positions, but there is still no announced return date. Sounds like it will be a matter of weeks, not days. “When he’s ready, he’s ready,” Girardi said. “I’m not going to put a date on it or a number of at-bats. A lot of it is how he’s feeling, how his body is responding to playing day after day, how he feels in the box, if he’s swinging well. You hope that he can see some left handers as well, that its’ not just strictly right handers. Anyone who wants to use their left handed relievers against him, that’s all right with me.”
• Eduardo Nunez tried to play catch today but again felt some discomfort in his rib cage. He’s not available tonight and probably won’t be tomorrow.
• Ivan Nova came through his extended spring training start healthy, but he was erratic which leaves some uncertainty about whether the Yankees will activate him for Monday’s double header. “He was wild,” Girardi said. “I think he had four walks, threw four-plus innings, 73 pitches, his velocity was good, but I don’t think he was extremely sharp. What that does for us Monday, I can’t tell you yet. We’ll have to figure it out.”
• Girardi said it’s possible, if he doesn’t use them between now and then, that either Adam Warren or Vidal Nuno could start a game on Monday. It’s also worth noting that there’s a solid chance tonight’s game is going to be rained out, likely forcing a double header tomorrow.
• Kevin Youkilis is still pretty inactive. “I guess he feels better,” Girardi said. “But he’s not doing a whole lot yet.”
• Girardi said he had a conversation with Austin Romine to make sure Romine understood the strategy of today’s lineup decision, that by batting Romine ninth Girardi is counting on Romine’s ability to get on base. “I just told him, ‘It has nothing to do with you, but the strategy of the game,'” Girardi said. “He was OK with it. I explained it to him.”
Associated Press photos