Brett Gardner to lead off vs. right-handers

The Yankees have decided how they want to stack the top part of their lineup, planning on having Brett Gardner lead off against right-handed pitchers with Derek Jeter batting second, beginning with tomorrow’s opener against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said that “you can bank on” having Jeter in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitching.

Gardner hit .287 (97-for-338) off righties last year, posting a .387 on-base percentage and .391 slugging percentage. Jeter hit .246 (111-for-451) off righties, with a .316 on-base percentage and .317 slugging percentage.

“It possibly gives him 50-60 more at-bats during the course of the year. Maybe 70,” Girardi said of Gardner. “If he’s on close to 40 percent of the time, he’s going to score more runs. It doesn’t take a lot. Maybe he can steal second and steal third, [and score on a] sac fly. We think he’s going to score more runs, and that’s why we’re doing it. And just how he’s able to disrupt pitchers.”

Off lefties in 2010, Gardner was .252/.373/.353, while Jeter was .321/.391/.481. Jeter’s career numbers against lefties are .335/.408/.498, compared to .307/.377/.437 against righties.

Assuming Curtis Granderson comes through his Minor League game fine in Tampa this afternoon and joins the team in New York tonight, this could be the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup:

Brett Gardner LF, Derek Jeter SS, Mark Teixeira 1B, Alex Rodriguez 3B, Robinson Cano 2B, Nick Swisher RF, Jorge Posada DH, Curtis Granderson CF, Russell Martin C, CC Sabathia LHP

If Granderson needs to be scratched, the Yankees would probably start Andruw Jones in left field, moving Gardner to center field.

  • Also, righty Luis Ayala will be the 12th man on the pitching staff, replacing lefty Pedro Feliciano, who is headed for the disabled list. The Yankees announced the Ayala move this afternoon, but Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News got the heads-up hours earlier. How? This one’s a case of right place, right time: Ayala was sitting next to Feinsand on the flight to Newark this morning.

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