Girardi goes with Gardner in leadoff spot

Girardi goes with Gardner in leadoff spot

Girardi goes with Gardner in leadoff spot
ST. PETERSBURG -- With Curtis Granderson out after taking a beating the last couple of days, and cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez still on the shelf, Joe Girardi's lineup construction on Thursday didn't necessarily represent a tough decision.

But the top of it is something that may continue in the coming days, as the Yankees' manager slotted Brett Gardner in at the leadoff spot and Derek Jeter in the two-hole.

Girardi talked about getting the hot-hitting Gardner back up top on Wednesday, and the combination of who's out of the Yankees' lineup and who was starting for the Rays -- right-hander James Shields -- knocked Jeter out of the leadoff spot for the first time since April 14.

Gardner batted .237 with a .321 on-base percentage in his first 24 starts as a leadoff man this year, but came into Thursday's series finale at Tropicana Field batting .560 with a .621 on-base percentage and seven steals in seven second-half games.

Expect to see more of that Gardner-Jeter combo at the top against right-handed starters.

"You might," Girardi said. "I've thought about it. I think about, I look at the pieces that we have every day. I mean, it's definitely something we can do. I can hit [Gardner] first and [Jeter] second. There's some things that I can do there. But the great thing about [Gardner] is he's been an outstanding force in the bottom of the order, as well."

Girardi said he doesn't have a problem leading Gardner off against opposing left-handers, but Jeter's numbers against southpaws this season -- .325 batting average and .419 on-base percentage -- are good.

Against Athletics right-hander Trevor Cahill on Friday, Girardi could sport the same top two, then have Granderson -- with his team-leading 26 homers -- batting third. But then there's the danger of disrupting the flow of Granderson, who has felt so comfortable in the No. 2 spot all year.

It's an issue Girardi is essentially dealing with on a day-to-day basis right now.