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Pregame notes: “Maybe you protect one of your lefties”

Tweet [1]

Robinson Cano [2]

There’s a very specific reason Jayson Nix is hitting in front of Robinson Cano: Joe Girardi wants to put someone who has hit lefties in front of someone who has not. In other words, he sees Nix as a deterrent to teams using left-handed relievers against both Brett Gardner and Cano.

“They have three lefties (in the bullpen),” Girardi said. “Texy allows you to do it a little bit more. We like the at-bats that Nixy is having, so we’re going to do it.”

Gardner has been pretty good against lefties, Teixeira has crushed them and Nix has a .408 on-base percentage against them. Then there’s Cano, who’s hitting just .206/.267/.351 against left-handers. He’s been his old self against right-handers, but this is the second year in a row that lefties have given him real trouble. Hitting coach Kevin Long acknowledged it yesterday, saying Cano is going to start taking batting practice in Long’s group — Long throws left-handed — to try to solve the problem.

“I know we’ve seen a lot of (lefties),” Girardi said. “It’s hard to say (why Cano’s struggling against them). He’s hit some home runs off them, but it has been somewhat of a struggle. But there is no rhyme or reason. Some years it’s just like that. … You look at the quality of left-handers that we’re facing too, they’re pretty good. You can look within our division – Price and Moore and Lester, Chen has been good in Baltimore. The quality of lefties we’re facing are really good right now. You’re seeing some of the lefties out of the bullpen, some of the guys here. That has something to do with it.”

So the Yankees are now using their utility infielder as a kind of shield for their best hitter.

“It makes them decide when they want to bring in their lefty,” Girardi said. “Nixy’s at-bats off of lefties have been real good, so maybe you protect one of your lefties in that situation. We’ll see what happens.”

Derek Jeter [3]• Derek Jeter is scheduled to visit the doctor today, but Girardi said he hasn’t gotten a report yet. He expects to have one after the game.

• Another update from Tampa: Francisco Cervelli has caught some bullpens and played catch. “I have not gotten information on him swinging a bat,” Girardi said. “He’s just trying to get his hand stronger so he can do everything.”

• It seems all but certain that Cervelli will be ready before Curtis Granderson, but Girardi said he’s not sure either one will be ready before the All-Star break. “I think it just depends on how their rehab goes,” Girardi said. “Obviously Cervy is ahead of Granderson, and he’s played a lot more than Grandy has too, so I would expect him back sooner than Grandy, but it’s hard to say.”

• More dry swings for Eduardo Nunez. Girardi said he hasn’t heard anything about Nunez stepping up to tee and toss. “We’ve went through that a few times, so he’s back down the road to recovery I guess,” Girardi said. “Hopefully this time it’s for good.”

• What’s caused Hiroki Kuroda to struggle a little bit lately? “His last start, I thought he lost his breaking ball in the middle and was able to recover,” Girardi said. “Anything in particular? No. Just maybe his location has not been as good.”

• The A’s will honor Mariano Rivera before today’s game. “I think when the other teams do it, they realize that they’re honoring him because of what he’s meant to the game, not just the New York Yankees,” Girardi said. “And I think people are appreciative of that; the way he’s handled the game; the way he’s been somewhat of a spokesperson for the game, a model citizen for the game; a humble player that is the greatest of all time at his position. I think it’s nice that other clubs are honoring him.”

Associated Press photos