- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Although he will never come right out and say it, Joe Girardi pretty much anointed the Yankees' successor, for this year at least, to Alex Rodriguez.
Forget about the two-headed monster the Yankees had been considering as a third-base platoon this season while A-Rod sits out his year-long drug suspension. For now, Kelly Johnson's the man for all seasons, or at least all pitchers, until Girardi decides otherwise.
New York Yankees
"We kinda thought about that a little bit going into the season when we signed Kelly, but his at-bats have been good against right-handers, left-handers," Girardi said when asked if he still planned to split the position between Johnson and Eduardo Nunez. "There’s some different things we can do with it, obviously."
Asked specifically if that meant Johnson had won the job, Girardi said, "He’s going to play a lot, let’s put it that way."
As if to underscore the point, Girardi brought Nunez along on the 75-mile ride to Champions Stadium, but didn't work him into the game until the seventh inning as a defensive replacement for Johnson.
"I like what I've seen from him," Girardi said of Johnson, who went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in Wednesday's 7-0 win over the Atlanta Braves. Johnson is hitting .258 with a home run and five RBIs this spring.
Thanks Derek: Derek Jeter made his final appearance at Champions Stadium and got the loudest cheers of the day from the Yankees-fan heavy crowd, from his first appearance in pregame warmups to the seventh inning, when Girardi removed him for a pinch runner. Jeter, whose infield hit Tuesday was his first since March 7, is batting .132 (5-for-38) for the spring but Girardi said he is not concerned. "My guess is he’s not going to panic either way," Girardi said, laughing. "I think the important thing is that he just feels good, and if he feels good, he’ll be in a good place."
Carlos, Adonis deliver: Carlos Beltran went 3-for-4 with two RBIs as the DH. Rookie Adonis Garcia, playing because Jacoby Ellsbury is still nursing his tight calf, knocked in two more with a fourth-inning double.
Ellsbury runs and sits: Girardi said Ellsbury went through a full practice session, including running, back in Tampa, but would definitely not play against his old team, the Red Sox, in Fort Myers on Thursday. Neither would he commit to using Ellsbury in Friday night's home game against the Pirates.
Headed south: Among the regulars making the three-hour trip down to Fort Myers: Mark Teixeira, Ichiro Suzuki, Francisco Cervelli, Nunez and Brendan Ryan, who will play for the first time in more than a week due to lower back soreness. David Phelps will make the start.
57mAndrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews