Brett Gardner – Your New Yankees Centerfielder

by Paul Raymond | Posted on Sunday, March 29th, 2009

While the New York Yankees have an All-Star laden roster there was still a roster competition taking place in Tampa. The center field job was a wide open race between Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. Both players were pretty hungry too posting outstanding spring numbers. They definitely made it hard on manager Joe Girardi to choose one over the other. With the season less then a week away thou Girardi made the announcement today. The NEW Yankees starting centerfielder is Brett Gardner.

“Both of them played great,” Girardi said. “Melky had a tough year last year but he came into camp and was ready to go and played well. Gardey finished up strong and had a great camp. We’re just going to go with Gardey.”

That’s right Yankee fans, Brett Gardner will be patrolling center field at the new Stadium. Can’t say I’m not too surprised by this. Gardner was having an outstanding spring, batting .418 with three doubles, two triples and three homers. Oh yea and don’t forget the five stolen bases. I believe he won the job because of those triples and steals. Gardner brings an element to the table that the Yankees have lacked for years, SPEED!

Over the last few years teams have shown that to win you need speed. Speed creates problems, it can get in the heads of opposing players and managers. Look at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mike Scioscia has used his teams speed to keep opposing pitchers and managers guessing. Are they going to steal? Are they going to hit-and-run? Are they going to try and go from first to third on a single? Speed wreaks havoc and it’s something the Yankees have lacked for years. After his time in Florida you know it’s something Girardi wants on his team.

“Right now, we think Gardy has a little bit of an edge…”, Girardi said “Speed adds an interesting dimension to a club.”

I also believe there is another reason the Yankees chose Gardner as their centerfielder. They basically need to see what the kid can do. We already know what Melky Cabrera can give you. Melky’s proven he is a capable fourth outfielder who can also provide value in starting (albeit in spurts). But what about Gardner? He hasn’t had enough playing time to show the Yankees if he could be an every day starter. By starting the season with Brett in center will give the Yankees ample time to find out if he can be a starter. If he can’t, it would still be early enough to scour the trade market for a starter.

“What happens April 6 doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what’s going to be June 1. As players, you have to perform. But right now we think Gardy has a little bit of an edge,” Girardi said. “It’s not going to be day by day. Gardy is our center fielder.”

So Girardi has given Gardner a vote of confidence, a small vote. I’ll give him that vote as well and trust the coach. He gets paid the big bucks to make these kinds of decisions and we’ll find out very quickly if it was the right one. Regardless, Brett knows the Melk-man is waiting in the wings and will do what he has to do to keep the job.

“Anytime you’re in this game, your job is never secure,” Gardner said. “It pretty much doesn’t matter who you are, especially in the situation I’m in right now. Just because they named the starting or opening day center fielder doesn’t mean I’ll be the second day of the season.”

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