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Yankees bump up Gary Sanchez in telling peek at lineup

March 29, 2017 12:36PM
Yankees bump up Gary Sanchez in telling peek at lineup


[nypost.com]

TAMPA — Two sensational months at the end of last season and a solid spring training convinced manager Joe Girardi he needed Gary Sanchez to hit high in the lineup.

So Girardi moved Sanchez to the No. 2 spot ahead of No. 3 hitter Greg Bird and dropped Jacoby Ellsbury to No. 5 for Tuesday night’s 6-3 loss to the Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field, a likely preview of the lineup that will be trotted out when the games begin for real on Sunday.

“The way [Sanchez] is swinging the bat, I wanted to get him and Greg Bird up as quick as possible. It breaks up the lefties,’’ Girardi said. “This very well could be near to our Opening Day lineup. It’s not like it came out of the blue. Do we have a traditional five hitter? Maybe not. But we have a couple of guys who can really run.’’

Wary of opposing managers using lefty relievers to face Brett Gardner and Ellsbury, who typically hit back to back last year, late in the game, Girardi gave the move a lot of thought.

“I said all along I thought about breaking up the lefties,’’ Girardi said. “We have right-handers in between all our left-handers, so it makes it harder to navigate through our lineup.’’

Ellsbury has batted fifth twice in his career and isn’t the typical No. 5 hitter because he doesn’t have the power usually associated with the middle of the lineup.

Nevertheless, he didn’t fight Girardi when informed of the change.

“I went to him before I did it and he seemed all in,’’ Girardi said of Ellsbury, who was signed as a free agent to a seven-year, $153 million deal to lead off. That contract has four years remaining. “We talked about a lot of times they bring in the lefties when he and Gardy were coming up. We will take a look at it, go with it, and see what happens. We feel like it’s a better situation for all the hitters.’’

Girardi said he believes hitting Ellsbury fifth provides speed in a spot not usually manned by somebody who runs well. He drove in a run with a groundout Tuesday night.

“Ells’ has pop in his bat and it does a couple of different things. It’s almost like you have another leadoff guy in the middle of the order,’’ Girardi said. “And you spread out the guys who can run throughout the lineup.’’

Girardi said if the leadoff hitter was right-handed, he may have done it differently and explained that if Didi Gregorius had been healthy, he wasn’t sure what he would have done.

After Gardner and Sanchez, Girardi had Bird third and Matt Holliday fourth. Starlin Castro followed Ellsbury in the sixth spot. Chase Headley was seventh, Aaron Hicks eighth and Ronald Torreyes ninth.


Girardi said Hicks being in right field didn’t mean he had won the competition over Aaron Judge, who homered high off the screen beyond the center field fence Tuesday night.

“Our hope was that we would have most of our decisions made, but we don’t,’’ Girardi said.

As for Gregorius’ replacement, Girardi strongly hinted Torreyes would start at short on Opening Day.

“It’s very possible,’’ Girardi said of the 5-foot-8, 150-pound, right-handed hitter being in the lineup Sunday against the Rays. He went 1-for-2 Tuesday. “Toe has played very well for us. He could be the guy that’s there.’’

Sanchez toed the company line when asked about hitting second, something he never did last year. He did hit third 40 times.

“The focus is to be ready wherever you are in the lineup,’’ Sanchez said. “If the manager wants me to hit second, you have to be ready.’’

As for the possibility of losing RBIs hitting second as opposed to third, fourth or fifth, Sanchez shrugged.

“It doesn’t matter because at the end of the day, if that helps win ballgames, I am more than happy,’’ said Sanchez, who went 1-for-2. “I am still going to have chances to bring in runs.’’
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