Gardner’s just a regular guy

Photo credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

On the morn of his second Opening Day start for the Yankees, Brett Gardner must feel on top of the world. Last season he started in center field, beating out Melky Cabrera in spring training. This year the left field job was all but his, and while he hit only .200 this spring his competition actually fared worse. We don’t know how long a leash the Yankees will have with Gardner, but it will likely be longer than last year’s.

Thomas Grant of the Times and Democrat profiles Gardner and his rise to the majors. A third round drat pick in 2005, Gardner was initially denied a place on the College of Charleston baseball team. It took plenty of effort not only by Gardner himself, but by his father, to secure a place on the team. They didn’t regret it, of course, as Gardner broke the school record for runs scored, among other achievements.

Gardner answered the call by rushing through the minors. He showed a pattern from AA through the majors, struggling during his first stint but excelling in the second. In 2007, with 207 PA in Scranton, Gardner hit .260/.343/.331, but upon his return trip he hit .296/.414/.422. Similarly, he hit .228/.283/.299 during his first 141 PA in the majors, but came back last season to hit .270/.345/.379 in 284 PA. There’s hope for the undersized Gardner to succeed at the majors. After all, he did post a .389 career minor league OBP despite initial struggles at higher levels. He knows, though, that the same approach might not work in the majors.

“With the Yankees, obviously, I was probably the weakest bat in the lineup,” Gardner said. “The last thing guys are going to do is be careful around me and pitch around me and wanting to put me on base for (Derek) Jeter and Nick Johnson and those guys on the top of the order like Alex (Rodriguez) and Tex (Mark Teixeira). Those guys can drive in runs. The last thing they want to do is put me on base for those guys. So I’m going to get pitches to hit. It’s just a matter of being consistent with my swing, being consistent with my approach and going up there and having good at-bats.”

He’ll get his chance starting tonight. Yesterday Sucka Got No Juice wrote that the Yankees “could be in the market for outfield help quickly” if Gardner gets off to a slow start. I’m not so sure, though. They know that their problem amounts to the No. 9 spot in the lineup, so perhaps they’ll extend Gardner more leeway than last year. In fact, I’m almost certain they will. If Gardner, Winn, and Thames don’t produce the team will surely look for an alternative, but I wouldn’t expect any such movement until June at the earliest.

On the brink of the start, thinking of repeating

Precisely five months ago to the day, the New York Yankees downed the Philadelphia Phillies on a Wednesday night to claim the 27th World Series championship in franchise history. Today, the title defense begins, and no one wants to see the Yankees repeat more than the 25 men who make up the 2010 Yankees.

Over the last month, as the Yanks have played through their Grapefruit League schedule, we’ve previewed the individual pieces that make up the 2010 club. We haven’t, however, offered up an overview of the team. Instead of running through the typical tropes — the Yankees need to stay healthy, the team has to hope that its aging core can stave off the inevitable decline — let’s just enjoy the day.

The last time the Yankees had a chance to repeat when Opening Day rolled around was in 2001. It was the middle of my senior year in high school, and in a pre-Sept. 11 world, the Yankees were flying high as back-to-back-to-back World Series champions. That team knew that Paul O’Neill would probably be playing his final year in pinstripes and that Tino Martinez would perhaps wind up elsewhere in favor of soon-to-be free agent Jason Giambi. We didn’t care though because the Yankees had beaten the Mets just a few months before. They were kings of New York and lords of baseball.

Today, we’re back there again after nearly a decade away. The rest of baseball hates us; Boston’s fans are itching at the chance to stick to the World Champion Yankees tonight; and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s always great being on top.

The next six months are going to be a marathon of baseball. We’ll see, yet again, the ins and outs of the regular season. We’ll see the team win some games, lose games. We’ll nitpick pitching changes and offensive decisions. We’ll bemoan the at-bats given to Marcus Thames or the innings giving to some bad reliever at the expense of the Next Big Thing down in Scranton. We’ll scream at Derek Jeter when he squares around to bunt, and we’ll sigh in exasperation as Brett Gardner takes a mighty hack and hits a pop up. We’ll watch A-Rod strike out; we’ll see Mariano Rivera blow a save or two. We’ll see Bad A.J. and Good A.J., Home Run Javy and Untouchable Javy. It’s all just the nature of the game, and it’s all baseball.

In ten hours, the title defense begins. In ten hours, Josh Beckett will deliver a pitch to Derek Jeter, probably a fastball, probably a pitch Jeter will take, and baseball — honest to goodness regular season, this time it counts baseball — will be back. I can’t wait.

After talk, MLB ‘very happy’ with A-Rod

A-Rod tees off during Friday\’s Grapefruit League action. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Although Alex Rodriguez never had an opportunity during Spring Training to meet with the feds investigation Anthony Galea, the Yanks’ third baseman did speak with Major League Baseball’s own investigators late last week. According to subsequent reports, MLB officials were, in the words of A-Rod, “very happy” with his answers.

Michael S. Schmidt of The Times reports that A-Rod denied receiving any performance-enhancing drugs from Dr. Galea. Rodriguez says he received anti-inflammatories for his hip from Galea but did nothing illegal. “It went well,” A-Rod said to reporters. “I cooperated. They were very happy. And that’s it. I can’t really get into it that much.”

Meanwhile, A-Rod’s meeting with the feds may finally happen this week, the Daily News reports. Originally scheduled for Thursday, the meeting was postponed when A-Rod’s lawyers requested an extension. They wanted to avoid a media scrum in Buffalo. Yankee and MLB officials, however, would prefer to see this interview over and done with, and there’s an outside chance that the feds will accept notes from A-Rod’s meeting with MLB in lieu of a statement from A-Rod himself.

As various news outlets have reported, the Yankees have been less than thrilled with A-Rod for his connection to Galea. Both the team and Marc Philippon, the doctor who preformed A-Rod’s hip surgery last spring, say they never gave Galea the OK to treat Rodriguez, and A-Rod apparently went to the Canadian doctor himself.

The Yankees have two days off this week, and hopefully, the government can find the time for A-Rod then. I want to be optimistic and say that once A-Rod meets with the feds as a witness, this will be the last we hear of Galea this year. With A-Rod, though, you just never know.

Open Thread: The 2010 New York Yankees

Here’s the 25-man Opening Day roster…

Jorge Posada
Frankie Cervelli

Mark Teixeira
Robinson Cano
Derek Jeter
Alex Rodriguez
Nick Johnson
Ramiro Pena

Brett Gardner
Curtis Granderson
Nick Swisher
Randy Winn
Marcus Thames

Starting Pitchers
CC Sabathia
A.J. Burnett
Andy Pettitte
Javy Vazquez
Phil Hughes

Mariano Rivera
Joba Chamberlain
Damaso Marte
Sergio Mitre
Al Aceves
David Robertson
Chan Ho Park

The exhibition season is over, the team is heading up to Boston, and tomorrow night the grind begins. I can’t wait.

* * *

Here’s the open thread for the night. The Islanders already won, but the Devils, Rangers, and Nets are all in action. That Rangers’ game is another one with major playoff implications. Talk about whatever you want, but make it count, this is the last open thread of the 2009-2010 offseason.

Spring Training Health Report: Everyone’s okay

The Yankees suffered a rash of minor injuries in the final week of camp, but they’ll have everyone available when the season begins tomorrow night. To put it succinctly, Jorge Posada‘s stiff neck is fine, Nick Johnson‘s bruised knee is better, Damaso Marte‘s shoulder isn’t cranky, and Al Aceves lower back is a-okay. Frankie Cervelli‘s sore hamstring is good to go as well, and he’ll be available off the bench. Thankfully everyone’s healthy, and the Yanks can start the season with everyone intact.

2010 Draft: Paxton lands in Grand Prairie

Via Baseball America, former University of Kentucky southpaw James Paxton has signed on with the Grand Prairie Air Hogs of the independent American Association. Paxton was ruled ineligible for his senior season after the NCAA found out that he used an agent (Scott Boras) to negotiate with the Blue Jays last summer when they made him the 37th overall pick. He’ll get about three weeks to show off his stuff to scouts before the draft in June.  I mentioned Paxton as a player the Yanks could target with their first round pick a few weeks ago.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Paxton’s manager at Grand Prairie will be former Yankee Pete Incaviglia. You probably remember him Rangers and Phillies, but he hit a clean .250-.250-.250 in 16 plate appearances with the Yanks in 1997.

Spring Training Game Thread: The Future

I suspect we'll get to see Mr. Venditte today. (Photo Credit: Charlie Riedel, AP)

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been waiting for this day all spring. The Yankees will play a friendly exhibition against their top prospects this afternoon, so we’ll get to see Jesus Montero attempt to go shot-for-shot with Alex Rodriguez, Slade Heathcott roam the same swath of grass as Curtis Granderson, and David Adams try to out-line drive Robbie Cano. The only guy who won’t be there is CC Sabathia, as tomorrow’s starter went up to Boston ahead of everyone else.

The nine players in the Yanks’ lineup will combine to make roughly $112,275,000  in 2010. The Future Stars’ lineup cost a total of $8.5M or so in signing bonuses, with Heathcott accounting for roughly one-fourth of that. I expect it to be a blood bath. Here’s the lineups…

Derek Jeter, SS
Jorge Posada, C
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Swisher, DH
Granderson, CF
Winn, RF
Gardner, LF

Javy Vazquez, SP

Future Stars
Slade Heathcott, CF
Corban Joseph, 3B
Jesus Montero, C
David Adams, 2B
J.R. Murphy, DH
Colin Curtis, LF
Bradley Suttle, 1B
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Melky Mesa, RF

Jon Albaladejo, SP

Chad Jennings has the rest of the pitchers and position players that are available. There’s a whole lot of ’em.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET, and yes, the game will be broadcast on YES. After today, the games count.