Chad Jennings of the Journal News recently interviewed Brett Gardner who is currently in line to be the next Yankee left fielder. His 2009 season was his rookie campaign and although he played well enough to put him in position to earn a starting job, there were enough problems that the Yankees are still looking for a forth outfielder.
So it’s not exactly big news to hear that he wants to make adjustments. Here are ones he has in mind:
Gardner knows that this job isn’t being handed to him: “I just want to be in there and play and contribute,” he said from his home in South Carolina. “Hopefully I’ll be playing every day. I’m sure they’re going to look at a couple of different options, and hopefully I fit in there somewhere.”
On being more aggressive: “I just need to be more aggressive and put some balls in play. Hitting ninth, the very last thing they’re going to do is walk me,” Gardner said. “So they’re going to throw me a lot of fastballs, which I saw a lot last year… It’s one of those things that I’ve got to get over the hump. I’ve got to get more aggressive. I can’t fall behind.”
Getting back to bunting: “There are days when I bunt more than 100 balls. It’s something I got away from that I shouldn’t have ever gotten away from,” he said. “The idea was, instead of wasting forty or fifty at-bats a year, swing the bat.”
Improving his base running: “Physically I was ready, I just don’t think I was ready mentally. I wasn’t aggressive enough.“
Jennings, who followed Gardner while he was with the Scranton Yankees, made the interesting observation about Gardner always improving his game. He used the example from 2008 when he had problems striking out too often. That caused him to make not striking out a priority and it was something he legitimately improved (30 K’s in 127 at bats in 2008 -> 40 K’s in 248 at bats in 2009).
It would be nice to have Johnny Damon back in the outfield for 2010, but Gardner is the reason why I am not worried about what happens. I really don’t think it would be that bad for the Yankees to go into the season with Gardner roaming their outfield.
Why do you think? Is Gardner poised for a breakout season in 2010 or a sophomore slump?