Throughout the day, I looked at the battles for the final spots on the Yankees roster: the last reliever, the battle for CF, and the utility infielder fight. I started with the 7th reliever, continued by looking at the utility infielder role, and will now wrap up the series by discussing the battle for center field.
Unlike the last two roster spots that I discussed, it seems that this fight is not for a spot on the team:
The competition between centerfielders Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera is likely to end with both players making the Yankees.
“That’s probably my expectation right now,” manager Joe Girardi said Friday.
Girardi was not ready to reveal which player he wants as the starting centerfielder, though he did say he has one in mind. He and other Yankees decision-makers, most notably general manager Brian Cashman, plan to sit down and discuss that and other roster decisions in the next couple of days….
“The thing is we have two capable centerfielders,” Girardi said. “It’s not our plan to be changing them around every day … I’d like to go with a pretty set lineup every day.”
However, it seems clear from that last quote that one player will be declared the winner and will get the bulk of the playing time. For most of the spring, it seemed that Brett Gardner had the starting job sewn up, as he came flying out of the gate while Melky struggled to get going. However, a recent surge from Cabrera has clouded the issue a bit. Let’s look at the numbers:
1. Brett Gardner: 49 AB’s, .367/.436/.673, 7K/6BB, 9R, 18H, 2 2B, 2 3B, 3HR, 6RBI, 5SB/1CS
2. Melky Cabrera: 52 AB’s, .346/.424/.500, 2K/6BB, 10R, 18H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1HR, 9RBI, 2SB/1CS
Gardner has clearly had the more prolific spring, and most Yankees fans are aware of the limitations of Melky Cabrera. However, the Yankees have to be impressed by Cabrera’s K/BB ratio, as they have made it clear to him that he needs to improve his batting eye, and he seems to be working on it. Conversely, Gardner needs to work on his strikeouts, as 7 in 49 at bats is quite high for a player who needs to be making contact and using his legs. However, considering Gardner’s overall performance this spring, coupled with his superior defense when compared to Melky, he deserves the starting job. Being that the Yankees will be carrying both players, they can always make a change later should Gardner falter. For now, his speed and defense should add a welcome new element to the Yankees starting lineup.
What do you think?
Update: According to Pete Abraham, Brett Gardner has won the center field job. As I mentioned above, this is the right move. Let’s see if he can hit enough to make his speed a real weapon.
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