Despite Brett Gardner being a productive hitter during the 2016 season, he felt that he under performed at the plate and on the base paths.
“I talked to him in spring training and gave him a goal, basically,’’ Girardi said after the Yankees defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 8-1 at Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon. “Basically, your job is to score 100 runs and I don’t care how you get to the next base. But your job is to score 100 runs.’’
Gardner quickly took Girardi’s words to heart, swiping five bags on the early season. Last season, Gardner didn’t swipe his fifth bag until May. It’s only the first week of the season and Gardner has already matched that total.
“I’m definitely trying to be more aggressive,’’ Gardner said. “There’s times maybe when the opportunity isn’t there. But when the opportunity is there, (I’ll) try and take advantage of it and be conscious about trying to be more aggressive.
“Those guys would rather have me on second and third.’’
By ‘those guys’, Gardner means the players in the middle of the order. However, the middle of the order has already been dealt a huge blow, especially with injuries to Didi Gregorius (shoulder) and Gary Sanchez (bicep strain).
Gardner came close to scoring 100 runs in 2010, but only scored 80 runs last season. In his defense, the Yankees lineup was less than potent and struggled with runners in scoring position.
Gardner doesn’t need reminding about his regressing stolen base stats, but the outfielder vows to be more aggressive this season.
“That’s something I really want to continue to focus on and try and take as good of care of my body as possible,’’ said Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, who turns 34 in August. “It’s a long season, and over the course of the season we get beat up from time to time.
“And maybe there’s times or days when you can’t be as aggressive,’’ Gardner said. “But right now I feel good and I’m taking advantage of opportunities that are given to me.’’