Without Curtis Granderson for at least the first month of the season, the New York Yankees are going to need a lot of help if they want to score runs without power.
Particularly, they’re going to need Brett Gardner to step up in a big way, both on the field and at the plate.
Considering that Gardner missed almost the entire 2012 season as a result of an ailing elbow that needed surgery, 2013 could be the biggest challenge of his career yet, as his role on the Yankees may have never been more important than it is right now.
Gardner will be counted on to provide a defensive anchor in center field, even with Ichiro Suzuki next to him, and how the layoff may have affected his bat will weigh heavily in the potential success the 29-year old will have as the team’s leadoff hitter in 2013.
In short, he’ll have to be leader of the outfield, as well as the spark to the Yankees’ offensive machine. No pressure, right?
If there is, Gardner hasn’t been playing like it so far in Spring Training. The outfielder had just a single hit after returning from surgery in September of 2012, but is currently leading the team in hits with nine over 16 at-bats. On top of that, he’s also drawn a pair of walks, while stealing a pair of bases.
The Yankees are counting on him to do a little bit of everything, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Gardner was the only New York player to not make an out against veteran Ryan Dempster of the Boston Red Sox on Sunday’s Grapefruit League game, and drew a walk later against Joel Hanrahan, the projected closer of the Yankees’ divisional rivals. That walk loaded the bases for New York that eventually led to a three-run inning, giving them a lead they would not relinquish.
Even though the score of the game itself is not indicative of very much, how they got into the position to generate the offense is.
One of the biggest questions facing the Yankees this spring was just how the team would score runs without power. The answer might not be fully worked out at this point, but the team already knows one thing: the plan for this new-look offense starts with Gardner.
So far, he looks to be up to the task.