Then the Yankees came to Baltimore, and Vernon Wells was on the bench Monday, Ichiro was back on the bench Tuesday, and Gardner wasn’t starting on Wednesday.
That’s a lot of shuffling, and it’s to be expected with four guys for three spots, but Joe Girardi said he has yet to talk to his outfielders about his plans for dividing playing time going forward.
“No,” Girardi said. “Because I haven’t exactly figured out exactly what it’s going to be everyday, and it could change so quickly.”
Girardi did make it clear, however, that he wants to have a regular, everyday outfield eventually.
“I think at some point you’ll probably get to where you’re trying to put the same lineup out there every day,” he said.
If immediate labels are necessary, the numbers suggest Ichiro should be the one designated as the fourth outfielder. He had a short spurt when he looked awfully good this season, but his overall slash line is even worse than it was in 2011. His speed and defense have value, but that sort of value is fairly common for reserve outfielders. He simply has not shown an everyday bat.
• Wells has been outstanding this season, but his past certainly suggests a bit of caution, and his age gives Girardi reason to rest him from time to time. It’s also worth noting that Wells has hit for power against both lefties and righties, but his batting average and on-base percentage are significantly worse against right-handers.
• Gardner has been his typically streaky self, and it’s well understood that he’s prone to considerable ups and downs. We’ve already seen some of that this season. Gardner has walked a lot, but he’s also struck out a lot. He’s started to run much more often lately, but he’s also played so much this season that it might be worth giving his legs a break now and then.
• Until last night, Granderson had not looked particularly good since coming off the disabled list. Perhaps a slow start was understandable, but last night’s double and home run were his first extra-base hits since being activated. Now that he’s generally a corner outfielder who doesn’t run much, most of his value is in his ability to hit for power. Perhaps last night was a sign that the power is back.
Clearly the Yankees are going to give Granderson significant at-bats to get himself going. It’s also clear that Wells has played too well to simply fall into a platoon role. It’s also clear that Gardner is outplaying Ichiro at the moment. For the time being, a regular outfield of Wells/Gardner/Granderson makes obvious sense, but there are factors at play beyond the early statistics.
“They understand,” Girardi said. “It’s not their first rodeo, and they understand that there’s four guys here that are used to playing a lot. But I’ll try to sit down (with them) as you get a little bit better handle on how things are going. That’s always subject to change, how we’re going to do it.”
Associated Press photo