Thames a near-lock vs. lefties

Thames a near-lock vs. lefties

BOSTON -- Marcus Thames was in the Yankees' starting lineup on Tuesday against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.

Consider that the beginning of a trend.

Barring a change in policy, Thames will play nearly every time the Yankees face a lefty starter. Rarely will he play when they don't. Most often, as he did on Tuesday at Fenway Park, Thames will spell Brett Gardner in left field. But from time to time, he also may start in favor of Curtis Granderson -- who has struggled throughout his career against left-handed pitching -- in center field, with Nick Swisher in right.

Against right-handed starters, the normal outfield of Gardner, Granderson and Swisher will usually remain intact.

"That's been my whole career pretty much," Thames said. "I know my role. That's what I've been doing for the last six years."

Throughout Spring Training -- and as recently as Sunday evening -- Girardi mentioned that Gardner could play his way into an everyday role. But when Girardi scribbled out his lineup card for Game 2 of the season, he left Gardner's name off it. And that's no coincidence.

Against lefties, Gardner is likely to play only if Thames is subbing for Granderson, thereby forcing Gardner over to his natural position in center field. Either way, the Yankees will do what they can to find at-bats for Thames.

"This is why we got Marcus," Girardi said. "We want to see him produce."

The theory is that Thames, who owns a career .516 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers compared to .474 against righties, can help the heavily left-handed Yankees neutralize power lefty pitching.

"There are a lot of different things that we thought we could do with him," Girardi said. "But for the most part, his numbers against left-handers are probably what spoke the loudest."