Without Sanchez, Yankees' lineup a fluid construction
NEW YORK - To one's naked eye, it might appear that Yankees manager Joe Girardi's take on lineup construction the last few years has been, in a word, rigid.
This year, though, Girardi hinted that he would break up lefties Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the lineup, and indeed, on Opening Day, the first Yankees nine of 2017 saw Gary Sanchez slotted in at No. 2 behind Gardner, with Ellsbury down in the No. 5 spot.
Having your theoretical best hitter batting second is a relatively new and oft-used trend in baseball, but in the Yankees' case, that thought lasted just five games, until Sanchez was injured in Saturday's loss to Baltimore and placed on the 10-day disabled list.
So, what to do now?
"I'll look at different scenarios," Girardi said prior to Monday's home opener.
On Sunday, in the first game following Sanchez's departure, the Yankees faced a lefty in Baltimore's Wade Miley, so Aaron Hicks spelled Ellsbury in center field and batted second. Come Monday, against Rays righty Alex Cobb, though, it was Ellsbury back in his old familiar place.
That will probably happen again on Thursday, too, but may not be the case Wednesday against a lefty (Blake Snell) and definitely won't be an everyday thing either way, says Girardi.
"When you look at Tampa Bay, they have one lefthander (starting this series) and don't have multiple lefties in their bullpen," Girardi said, "so I'm willing to (bat Gardner and Ellsbury 1-2). But, we'll look at what we have every day and see."
Nor, Girardi noted, do his early 2017 lineups indicate any real change in his philosophies over the years.
"It really hasn't changed a while lot. You look for on-base guys early, guys that drive the ball and drive in runs in the middle, and hopefully your lineup is deep to where you have a bunch of guys that can do that," the skipper said, adding later, "I also think you also try to break up lefties as much as you can."
The Yankees did have a pretty good lefty-righty split in their first few lineups, but as Monday - when the Yankees had two lefties at the top and seven straight righties (including switch-hitter Chase Headley smack in the middle of the set) - suggests, it's not always that easy.
"So much of it has to do with personnel. You can have a view of what a lineup should be, but if you don't have that type of personnel, it makes that difficult to achieve in a sense," the skipper said.
One thing Girardi can hopefully continue to count on, though, is length, given that the team leader in RBI through six games is No. 9 hitter Ronald Torreyes, the nominal utility infielder who is filling in for injured Didi Gregorius; little Toe has come up big with seven RBI in his first 20 plate appearances, already more than halfway to the 12 he drove in last season in 169 trips to the dish.
"His at-bats have been good, especially in big situations," Girardi said of Torreyes. "He's a guy we're running out there every day because we believe in what he can do."