Wednesday, February 20, 2013
First pitch: Center of attention
By Wallace Matthews
TAMPA, Fla. -- There may not be very many roster spots available on this team, but there are a couple of jobs up for grabs.
And one that is used to be considered one of the most glamorous jobs in professional sports: center fielder for the New York Yankees.
Brett Gardner as the everyday center fielder? It isn't such a stretch.
Again on Tuesday, Joe Girardi acknowledged that the Yankees are at least "toying with" the idea of switching Brett Gardner to center and shifting Curtis Granderson, who has held the position for the past three seasons, to left.
"The question for us to sit here and stew over is, if you flip-flop 'em, does it make you better defensively?," Girardi said. "That's what we have to figure out. Because it's not just how one guy would do in one position, but how much ground the combination of the two of them would cover. You could try it, or we could just say, you know, we're going to stay the way it is."
The fact that Girardi is even acknowledging the idea tells me the Yankees are likely to kick the tires on it early in spring training, if only because the defensive metrics, which Girardi and his staff love, indicate that Gardner is a significantly better defender than Granderson. Wthout getting into UZR, FSR and TZL, suffice it to say that in 2011, the last time Gardner played a full season, he was off-the-charts good defensively, and last year, Granderson was ranked near the bottom among everyday center fielders.
For an offense that might have difficulty scoring runs this season, preventing runs becomes that much more important.
"There are a lot of things we have to look at," Girardi said. "Do they cover more ground one way or the other? Because they both can run. And they both have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a guy goes better one way than the other. How does it all work out? We won't really know until we see it in a game, so I mean i'’s just something we have to evaluate."
Sounds like we're going to get that chance.
QUESTION: Who do you prefer in center field, Gardner or Granderson?
UP NOW: My news story on Phil Hughes' backache, which didn't sound too serious yesterday, as well as assorted blog items from Tuesday's workout, my favorite of which is Derek Jeter's favorite means of self-amusement during spring training. Plus, where does Curtis Granderson want to play next year? Where do you think?
ON DECK: Today is Photo Day, so all players are required to be on the field in home whites at 7:30 a.m. Thankfully, however, the clubhouse does not open to the media until 9:40. I'll be there when it opens so be ready for plenty of stuff, including Hughes' assessment of his injury and when he should be able to return to action. I'll also have a live chat this afternoon at 2:30, so check in often. And as always, thanks for reading.