Thank you everyone for the gift of landing me on the top 50 fan blogs at … NUMBER ELEVEN? I was totally not expecting that, especially in light of my complete lack of Spring Training game coverage. You guys are all the best. I’ve been receiving quite a bit of interesting feedback on my other most recent entry “It Just Feels Dirty…” and I must say that your comments have made me laugh, made me guffaw, and even made me think.
I’ll get into the non-baseball adventures soon, if you so wish, but for now allow me to introduce to you my dedication for number 11:
Who? Brett Gardner. Remember that name. Fans of non-Yankee AL teams are going to start to spit at the sound of his name soon.
If you would have asked me who I thought would be the starting center fielder for the Yanks in 2009, I would have confidently told you Melky Cabrera. His canon arm is a huge defensive plus and I had hoped that his off-season work with Kevin Long and winterball in the Dominican would have risen him to the form I was accustomed to seeing of the Melk-Man.
However, when Melky was sent down to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre, New York fans were treated to an extended look at Brett Gardner. Who couldn’t crack a smile as Gardner quickly made himself a baserunning threat. Let’s face it, New York hasn’t had a speed freak like Gardner in a looooooooong time.
The September call-up wasn’t our first look at Brett Gardner. When Johnny Damon fell to an injury for a brief period at the end of June, Gardner filled his spot in left field.
Through his pair of big league stays, Gardner was still able to generate enough waves in minor league play. On February 28, Gardner was named Kevin Lawn Player of the Year by the yankees organization.
Though not even in his first full rookie season, Gardner has already been written into the history books. On September 21, 2008, Gardner scored the final run of Major League Baseball in Yankee Stadium history as a pinch runner for Jason Giambi, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Cano in the seventh inning of an eventual 7-3 win for the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles.
Gardner appeared in 94 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
in 2008, batting .296 (101-for-341) with 12 doubles, 11 triples, three
home runs, 32 RBI and 37 stolen bases. He led all Yankees minor
leaguers in stolen bases and tied for fourth in batting average.
In two stints with the Yankees in 2008, Gardner combined to bat
.228 (29-for-117) with five doubles, two triples, 16 RBI and 13 stolen
bases in 42 games (17 starts).
He became just the third Yankee since
1938 to steal five bases within his first nine Major League games,
joining Mickey Rivers and Bobby Abreu (credit: Elias).
“That’s just my game, that’s just my job,” Gardner said. “If I didn’t
do that, I wouldn’t be here right now. I wouldn’t be in Minor League
camp either. I’d have a desk job somewhere. That’s the main part of my
game and that’s why I am where I am.”
season, he was named to Baseball America’s Triple-A All-Star team and
was tabbed by the publication as having the International League’s
“Best Strikezone Judgment” as well as being the IL’s “Best Baserunner.”
“This dude comes running around first base like a bolt of lightning,
and it’s like, ‘Wow,'” said teammate Nick Swisher. “This dude is
“That is his game, and I love that,” Swisher said. “I try to push him
every day. He’s that scrappy guy — one of those guys that if he gets
on the basepaths, he’s going to kill you. I love the way he plays. He
grinds out every at-bat, he grinds out every day.”
Gardner continues to pester his opponents in an impressive spring training campaign makred with a .417 AVG and a .500 OBP. In only 5 games, Gardner has collected 2 steals and has hustled out several extra bases thanks to his speed — a commodity the Yankees desperately need after losing Bobby Abreu to free-agency.
“He leads off the game and gets on base, and he already puts the
pitcher in defensive mode,” said pitcher Ian Kennedy, who played with
Gardner at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“You have to think about him always at first base. He’s going to steal
— it doesn’t matter what pitch. He’s one of those guys that’s a pest.
You love to have him on your team, because he’s always going to make
“Obviously, I know what’s at stake,” Gardner said. “I’m just coming out
here to work hard and try to get better every day, and have some good
quality at-bats and prove to them that I’m ready to compete at this
“I feel like my strengths are my defense and baserunning, and being able to get on base and make things happen.”
Gardner’s speed has not gone unnoticed, either.
“That’s fun to watch, any time you have that type of speed. I mean, we
have a guy in [Brett] Gardner that’ll be fun. That’s probably the most
you can have, watching those guys run,”
said teammate Alex Rodriguez.
“He’s an exciting player. He creates havoc,” said Yankees skipper, Joe Girardi. “He can be a pest, and we like that.”
All quotes are from interviews or press conferences by MLB.com beat report Bryan Hoch and Yankees.com.
You can read Bryan’s blog over at http://bombersbeat.mlblogs.com