In rare start vs. lefty, Pronk takes advantage

In rare start vs. lefty, Pronk takes advantage

NEW YORK -- As it turned out, Yankees manager Joe Girardi picked the perfect time to give Travis Hafner his first start against a left-handed pitcher on Saturday.

Hafner, who typically gives way to Ben Francisco against southpaw starters, belted a three-run homer against Jays starter J.A. Happ on Saturday and later delivered a decisive RBI triple in the seventh inning against fellow lefty Brett Cecil.

"I thought it was time to give Haf a shot at it [Saturday]," Girardi said. "I won't do it every time because I think, for him, who's had some injury problems, off-days don't necessarily hurt him. I have to be careful, but I thought it was a good day to do it and he made it work."

For Hafner, it was important to get that first start under his belt, considering he's bound to face his fair share of lefty specialists late in games. Though he had yet to start against a left-hander, Hafner was 1-for-7 with three strikeouts and three walks prior to Saturday's 2-for-4 performance.

"It's nice to get some starts in there, because you face them late in games and it's nice to have some at-bats off them," Hafner said. "I think I will get some starts, but I know they have my best interest in mind, too. Whenever they want me to play, I'm ready."

As far as whether or not Girardi will start using Hafner more against lefties, the skipper said the decision will be based more on Hafner's durability than his statistical numbers. After all, the 35-year-old designated hitter has played more than 100 games just once in the last five seasons due to a myriad of injuries.

"We'll see. Part of it is managing him, too," Girardi said. "When you have some guys that have some age and some history of health problems, you have to manage that. You pick your days and [Saturday] I picked to put him in against a left-hander and he was great."

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.