Friday, April 22, 2011

Yankees Granderson Picks Up Slack For Slumping Gardner

No one would have doubted that a New York Yankees player would be tied for the AL home-run lead at this point of the season, but nobody would have ever predicted his name would be Curtis Granderson.  The Yankees center-fielder is on fire over the last five games.  He is batting .421 (8-for-19) with four home-runs and six RBI's over that span.

The Yankees head into Baltimore for a scheduled three-game set against the Orioles--tonight's game has been called due to rain--as the AL East leaders and Granderson is the biggest SCUD on the Bronx Bombers.

Nine games into the season, Granderson was hitting .156 at the back of the order.  Since then, the 27 year-old has gone from batting ninth, then eighth and now second.  He has lifted his average to .273.

"I talked to [hitting coach] Kevin Long and he liked my at-bats and my swing," the rejuvenated player said.  "I wasn't really out of whack and there was no need to change.  It was a matter of an inch and being late."

Granderson always had a little pop in his bat, but heading to Camden Yards this weekend, he has homered in three straight games and, after struggling against lefthanders (.218 lifetime), is also taking them yard this year, hitting .353 (6-for-17), with three HR's and five RBI's.

Gardner, meanwhile, is stuck in a rut.  He has as many hits (six) as Granderson has home-runs and is carrying a minuscule .128 average and .196 OBP to the plate.

The 27 year-old right-fielder finally won the lead-off spot this season but, after his pitiful start, has been bumped down to batting ninth and watching lefties from the bench.

Two years ago, a slump like this cost Gardner his starting job to Melky Cabrera, but don't expect manager Joe Girardi to replace his speedster at one time.  Just expect to see Andruw Jones in the line-up against lefthanders.  Jones, another one of the Yankees scrap-heap pick-ups, has seen limited play and is hitting .250 with one homer.

Gardner knows he is rooted in a bad slump is hoping he can turn it around; much like Granderson has done over the last seven games.

"I feel like every day is an opportunity to come out here and turn it around," said Gardner.  "I don't think about too much long-term stuff right now."

The Yankees have been shuffling the struggling Gardner and inconsistent Derek Jeter at the number one and two spots all season and felt they had to pull Gardner after a horrible game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.  The speedy Gardner blew a sac-bunt and was thrown out stealing--his third time in six attempts this season.  Speed is considered Gardner's saving grace.

"The last thing you want to do when you're not swinging the bat well is to get the most at-bats on the team," hitting coach Kevin Long said.  "It's a smart move.  He a smart kid, so he gets it.  He doesn't have to be happy about it, but at this point in time, it's the best thing to do."

Gardner has been hitting the video rewind button pretty hard lately; while trying to find out where he is failing at the plate. 

"If you can be successful for a couple of months, there's no reason that I shouldn't be able to find that and get back in that groove again," he reasoned.

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