Thirty seven times Carlos Beltran has been in the Yankees starting lineup this season, and for 36 of those games, he batting third, fourth or fifth. Always in the middle of the order. Always in a high-profile spot. Always in a position that makes clear that the Yankees expect him to be a potent run producer.
On Monday, Beltran was batting seventh.
Of course, that was before the rain started coming down in a relentless shower that forced a postponement. Manager Joe Girardi never actually used the lineup he posted in the clubhouse, but the prepared batting order was certainly different from anything the Yankees had previously used this season. Surely a sign of the Yankees manager planning to shake up the lineup and try to get something going.
“The one thing you can’t do is you can’t just start changing everything,” Girardi said. “You look at what guys have done in the past, you look at what guys have done this year, and you try to put what you feel is the best lineup together every day. It’s been two months. We’ve struggled the last three or four weeks scoring runs. Obviously we know we need to score more, but guys are going through a tough time and sometimes you’ve just got to ride it out a little bit.”
Monday’s lineup had slumping Alfonso Soriano hitting cleanup. It had Mark Teixeira up from fourth to third. It had Beltran in the bottom third of the order, and Yangervis Solarte hitting ahead of Brian McCann. It had Brendan Ryan getting a rare start at second base. But there were extenuating circumstances — Jacoby Ellsbury was out with a sore hip, the Royals were scheduled to start a lefty — that seem to have played a big role in the changes.
“Sometimes (changing the lineup) can have an impact,” Girardi said. “Probably a lot of times it doesn’t. You might move a guy one position down, one position up, that sort of thing. For the most part, numbers equal out over time. Maybe it’s (like) trying to buy and sell stocks all the time. You’re trying to figure out when it’s going to be its highest and when it’s going to be at its lowest, and it’s tough to predict. No one knows the answer.”
Ellsbury had a bad month of May — .231/.317/.327 — but he’s turned things around to become the Yankees hottest hitter the past few weeks. It seems the Yankees are banking on their other underperforming veterans to do the same. McCann is hitting well belong his career averages. So is Beltran (after a strong April), and so is Soriano (who was a really productive hitter as recently as September). And then, of course, there’s Derek Jeter who’s hitting just .254 with no power to speak of, yet he’s remained in the No. 2 spot in the order.
I maintain that the Yankees have far more pressing offensive issues than the placement of Jeter in the lineup, but it’s Jeter and so his spot in the order gets a ton of attention. Does Girardi take player expectations into account when creating a lineup? Does he consider the fact that veterans are used to seeing their names in certain spots?
“Obviously you think about that because their mind is a part of this too, not (only) the physical skills,” Girardi said. “You think about that as well. But for the most part, our guys have been consistently in the same areas. Maybe a little tweak here, a tweak there, but for the most part they’ve consistently been in the same areas.”
So as significant as Monday’s proposed lineup might have seemed on paper, it might be nothing more than a one-time change washed away by the rain.
“You know that it’s a long haul, you know that it’s 162 games, and averages are usually averages because over time it’s going to equal out,” Girardi said. “So I’ve got to believe we’ve got some guys who are due to get hot.”
Associated Press photos