Via Anthony McCarron –
“They’re both missing something that would make that position more secure,” said a veteran major league scout, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Right now, Brett Gardner has that outstanding speed but doesn’t hit enough. And Cabrera’s just OK as a hitter and fielder. This could be a gamble.”
“I think [Gardner is] innately a confident guy,” said Mark Newman, who runs the farm system as the Yanks’ VP of baseball operations. “He believes he can be a player. He’s never been a high-profile guy. He is a hugely committed player, and guys with that kind of makeup it’s hard to say they’ll never make it.”
Gardner hit .153 in his first 17 games in the majors last year, but hit .294 over his final 25 after a three-week stint in the minors. The scout noted that Gardner’s speed could be a weapon unlike anything the Yankees currently have.
“If he hits the ball on the ground to the right of second base, they’ll have one hell of a time throwing him out,” said the scout, who last season clocked Gardner to first in 3.5 seconds on a bunt. “I’d spend a lot of time with him on bunting, dragging it and pushing it. He could add another 15 hits a year. And even if he doesn’t get a hit, he can cause the infielders, especially the shortstop, to hurry their throws and they’ll screw it up sometimes.”
But Gardner has struggled at times to keep the ball on the ground. “We don’t want him to hit the ball in the air and he doesn’t want to, either,” Newman said. “He’s aware of it. He’s not a little guy who thinks he should hit home runs. The lion’s share of balls he puts in play need to be flat.
“There were a lot of center fielders like him in the majors 20 years ago. There are not many of them now, but that doesn’t mean his skill set doesn’t translate. Mickey Rivers would be the last time we’ve had anybody like this, so it hasn’t been the typical model for the Yankees. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be.”
Meanwhile, Yankee officials make no secret of the burden facing Cabrera – he has got to win them over after a subpar 2008 in which he lost the job and was banished to the minors, batting just .249 with an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .642.
“He’s a better player than what he showed last year,” Cashman said. “He took a step backward in his career, but he’s going to take a step forward. But he has to prove it. It’s his career.”
What was wrong last year?
“I don’t know,” [Brian] Cashman said. “Same as a number of guys on the club. We had a number of different guys going through things. But if they have a bad taste in their mouth, they do something about it.”
Added Newman: “He’s got to bounce back. We’ll see. He has to improve and he knows it. I know that Joe (Girardi) and his staff have related that to him.
“I think he can, but it’s really up to him.”
Is it just me, or, does Brian Cashman say “I don’t know” alot – when asked about what happened when something didn’t go well?