Lost in the hoopla of the last week was a very brief note at the end of a Newsday article. The Yankees are going to have Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner fight it out for the center field job during Spring Training. Interestingly, this news seems to confirm that Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher probably won’t be in the mix for that job if all things go according to plan. Melky, by the way, had x-rays after getting hit by a Daniel Cabrera pitch on Thursday. They came back negative.
After his first stint in the Bigs, Brett Gardner returned to AAA with little fanfare. While fast and solid in the outfield, he didn’t do much hitting and looked like the consummate Quadruple-A player. This time around, the numbers tell a different tale. Since taking over the center field job a few weeks ago, Gardner is 13 for 40 (.325) with seven RBIs and four stolen bases. He’s now doing what we expected him to do. While Gardner, as John Sickels noted this week, probably won’t be more than good fourth outfielder, he’s certainly making a case for himself this month.
Saw this on MLB Trade Rumors a minute ago. It comes from a source we don’t enjoy citing, but the news is too big to pass up. Apparently, the team has waived Richie Sexson, and has sent Melky Cabrera to Scranton. Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom take their places. This is quite the strange turn of events. While I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the source jumped the gun on this, it would be a welcome change if true.
Just a quick update before we get to the game. According to Ed Price, the Yankees have removed Kei Igawa from the 40-man roster. He passed through waivers unclaimed. To make room on the 25-man roster for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady, the Yankees have optioned Brett Gardner to AAA, and have DFA LaTroy Hawkins, according to WFAN. Oh, happy day!
According to Buster Olney, the Yanks are still working on a deal for Jarrod Washburn, which would be a salary dump move.
We don’t have the full lineups yet, but Nady is in the lineup, playing left field and batting 7th. You have to assume it’s the lineup as usual through five, Cano hitting sixth, and then Cabrera 8th and Molina 9th.
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As we reported last night, the Yanks have called up Brett Gardner. They finally released the corresponding move as Justin Christian has been optioned back to AAA. Gardner is leading off tonight in left field, Joe will have more on the newest Yankee later on in the game thread.
Melky Cabrera has a special place in the hearts of Yankees’ fans. We watched him (and his .322 OBP) jump from Double-A all the way to bigs as a 20 year old in 2005, then watched in horror as he looked overmatched at the plate and misplayed routine flyballs into inside-the-park homers in Fenway Park. He returned the following season because of injuries, and has since established himself as a passable everyday centerfielder. He’s one of our own; he’s paid his dues and earned a job.
This season though has been a tale of two Melky’s. His Opening Day homer gave us all hope that he was in line for the breakout season that many predicted was coming, and as recently as May 4th it looked like the breakout was legit. After hitting .291-.359-.505 with a team leading six longballs through his first 31 games, Melky has become an offensive blackhole. The numbers aren’t pretty: .257-.293-.284 with a whopping three extra base hits (all doubles) in his last 30 games. A few days ago he misplayed a potential double play ball, and if nothing else a routine line drive hit right at him, into a bunch of unearned runs. Today he weakly grounded out to first to kill the Yankees’ 9th inning rally against Royals’ closer Joakim Soria, sliding into the bag after being told for two full seasons now not to slide into first.
Enter Brett Gardner. The Yanks’ third round pick in 2005 has spend the first two-and-a-half years of his professional career terrorizing the opposition, whether it be by working counts (.387 career OBP), spraying hits to all fields (.290 BA), or running wild on the basepaths (141 SB). He’s added another much needed element to this game this year: power. Through 60 games he’s already tripled his homer total of the previous two season combined, and is slugging at a .454 clip, almost 80 points better than his career output coming into the year.
Having seen time in both left and centerfield this year, as well as a handful of pinch hit & run opportunities, Gardner is poised to take over as an extra outfielder in the big leagues this year. He’s every bit as capable as Melky when it comes to running down balls in the outfield, and while his arm isn’t as strong, his speed and on-base skills make him a much deadlier offensive player. It is worth nothing that Gardner is just about a full year older than Melky.
While it’s hard to believe that Gardner couldn’t be a viable extra outfielder right now, we’re not here to discuss a bench job. Is it time to take Melky Cabrera and his limp noodle bat out of the lineup and replace it with Gardner’s speed demon game on a full-time basis? Could he perform any worse?
Discuss it here, and play nice.
In Grapefruit League action, Brett Gardner, the Yanks’ speedy 24-year-old center field prospect, is hitting .379/.455/.517 with six stolen bases in six attempts. While Melky Cabrera, the reigning center fielder, is having himself a decent spring, rumblings are growing around Gardner. Last week, Brian at Depressed Fan pondered Gardner’s fate. Today, in The Times, Jack Curry looks at the player who considers himself the center fielder of the future. It’s a excellent look at a dynamic player, and as we’re somewhat skeptical of Melky’s long-term prognosis — to say the least — Gardner is a intriguing option in center field for sure.