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Brett Gardner’s Return Is Key To Fixing New York Yankees Lineup Woes

New York Yankees fans cringe when they see it.  It’s just one last name and a position label, but it means the game will not be stress-free.

It is “Nunez LF”.

What it means to us is that every time a fly ball or base hit is sent into left field, the young, inexperienced, infielder-forced-into-outfielder will leave us holding our collective breath.  Will he catch it?  Will it get by him?  All sorts of questions and scenarios fly through our minds as the ball approaches the New York Yankees Eduardo Nunez.

This isn’t to say that we don’t have those thoughts when he plays at his more “natural” positions in the infield.  As a matter of fact, the worries are pretty much the same.  Ranking lowest on the team in fielding percentage (for those that have played at least 10 games) means that we will worry every time a ball heads his way, regardless of where he’s playing.

How do the New York Yankees prevent this sort of stress on the “empire’s” faithful?  Simple – get Brett Gardner back.

The Bombers speedy left fielder has been out of our lineup since April 19th with a bruised right elbow and strained muscle in his arm.  In that time, manager Joe Girardi has used several players in his place including Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Nix, Dewayne Wise, and of course Nunez.  None of them have the pure speed, or fielding skills to match Gardner.  Over the past month those five are hitting a combined .210 (Ibanez leading the way at .288), representing a significant dropoff from the .321 average that Gardner had when he had to go on the disabled list.

The very presence of Brett Gardner in the New York Yankees lineup makes the team deeper and more potent.  At the time he was hurt, Gardner was second on the team in on-base percentage at .424 (Derek Jeter leads team at .434).  The distraction he is to pitchers when he reaches base is invaluable.  His speed makes him a stolen base threat, and opponents always have to be wary of him laying down a bunt.

More importantly, with Gardner back to active duty the New York Yankees can use players as they are intended.  Both Jones and Ibanez were signed to platoon at DH.  Their days of patrolling the outfield were supposed to be over.  Nix and Wise are both 30-something players that were to be utilized in spots to rest the regulars, and Nunez is still a young developing infielder that made the club as a backup for Jeter, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez.  None of the five were expected to have everyday roles on the field in 2012.

Brett Gardner played in a Triple A game last night for the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees, going 2 for 3 at the plate.  His return to the New York Yankees lineup is imminent and, with right fielder Nick Swisher back from his hamstring strain, the team the New York Yankees field on a daily basis will once again be complete.