Brian McCann in the cleanup spot, Brett Gardner batting seventh and Kelly Johnson at the very bottom of the order. That’s the lineup the Yankees expected to use this afternoon, and it’s the one they’re planning to use on Opening Day.
“There’s a pretty good chance we’ll use that Tuesday,” Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees had Gardner hitting leadoff for much of the last week, but that was strictly because Jacoby Ellsbury was playing in minor league games as a kind of rehab assignment to get back from a tight right calf. He was always going to be the leadoff hitter, and Derek Jeter was basically locked into the No. 2 spot from the day camp opened.
It seemed Gardner could have fit anywhere from seventh to ninth.
“He’s a guy that we feel we could hit anywhere in the top or anywhere down to give some speed,” Girardi said. “He had a pretty good year offensively last year, and that’s where we decided to put him.”
With switch hitters in the third, fifth and eighth spots, the Yankees have no back-to-back right handers and only one set of back-to-back lefties in Johnson and Ellsbury. The order, though, seems far less important than the fact that all of the Yankees regulars should be healthy and available on Opening Day. Last year, the Yankees broke camp without their shortstop, without their left fielder and without their first baseman.
“Last year we left, we were missing the middle of our order, the end of our order, the top of our order,” Girardi said. “This year we leave with pretty much everyone in our order that we expected to be there. I think it was a very productive spring. I thought it was a very competitive spring. I really liked what I saw from our team. I do. I feel good about it.”
· Not everyone was on tonight’s flight to Houston. Several players stayed behind and will fly on their own either Sunday or Monday. Yangervis Solarte stayed behind so that he could pack, and he’ll fly on Sunday. Michael Pineda stayed behind so that he can pitch in a minor league game tomorrow morning. Brendan Ryan stayed behind to continue working his way back from a sore back.
· Ryan said he expects to take several weeks before returning, but he expects to be activated by May 1. “I would be pretty disappointed if it took that long,” Ryan said. “Granted, the player always wants to speed things up, but you’ve got to be responsible. We had one setback and there was really no way of seeing that happen. Probably not much regret there but we don’t want another one. I think it’s just a matter of stacking at-bats, getting innings under the belt, and getting rhythm and timing. All the things I was intending to do during the spring. So I’ll have my own kind of separate spring, I guess. I think they said they like guys to get 50 (at-bats).”
· With today’s game rained out, the Yankees pitchers who were scheduled to throw went inside and pitched simulated games.
· Eduardo Nunez, Cesar Cabral and Shane Greene were officially optioned to Triple-A. Zelous Wheeler, Antoan Richardson, Adonis Garcia, Jose Gil and Matt Daley were reassigned to minor league camp.
· Before the rain came, the Yankees had two on-field ceremonies. The first was to present Masahiro Tanaka with the James P. Dawson Award as the outstanding rookie in spring training. It’s voted on by the writers. It was basically between Tanaka and Solarte. Either one would have been a solid choice.
· The second on-field ceremony was to honor Derek Jeter, who finished off the final spring training of his career. This stadium opened in 1996, the year Jeter made his first Opening Day roster, so he’s really been a constant at this place. He was given a key to the city of Tampa. “I live here, so now I can do whatever I want when I’m in Tampa,” he said. “I don’t know how long it unlocks the doors for. It always feels good to be recognized. I spend a lot of time here, I live here in the offseason, so thought it was very nice.”
· The Astros have announced that they’ll honor Jeter with a pregame ceremony on Wednesday. Both Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens are scheduled to be there. “It was good to see Rock last year when Mo got honored out there,” Jeter said. “It’s always good to see those guys, especially Andy, being with Andy for so long. Rocket as well. I don’t know what they have planned, but I look forward to seeing them.”
· Might as well give the final word to Jeter: “We have a lot of talent, but you have to perform on the field. That’s the bottom line. Everyone tries to have predictions of where they feel each team is going to finish every year, but you have to perform on the field. I like the guys that we have. We’re healthy for the most part leaving spring training; that’s always important. The key for most teams is to stay healthy, but you’ve got to do your job on the field. It’s a long season and it takes a little while before you really get a great feel for what the team is capable of doing, but I’m pretty optimistic about this group.”
Associated Press photos