By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
This season, Brett Gardner will play his share of games in left field for the Yankees. He’ll also play some in center and in right.
He may show some signs of aging in his 37-year-old body during his 14th season in Pinstripes. Those started to surface last season.
For the most part, the Yankees inked the fan favorite to a recent one-year deal for his left-handed bat and his steady glove.
He also has reached the height of a playing Yankees’ hero. He is the gritty, throwback, blue-collar player who puts in his day’s work that has gained respect and become accepted as a norm.
However, there will be one major, noticeable difference in possibly his final season — Gardner won’t be in a starting role.
Instead, he will be in a valuable reserve role in the outfield.
Ladies and Gentleman, Clint Frazier will be your left fielder this season.
As I previously wrote, this is Frazier’s time, and it is his job to lose. He has finally leaped over all of the obstacles from injuries and demotions.
Gardner is the Yankees’ outfield insurance policy. He can be what Wade Boggs and Mariano Duncan were to the championship teams in the 1990s.
Based on the probability from the past of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton, Gardner will get plenty of chances to play the field or DH. The vaunted outfield trio have spent more of combined time on the injured list than in the field.
Gardner’s days as a Yankees appeared to be over when the team declined a 10 million option that generated a $2.5 million buyout. His numbers reflected their decision with a .23, five-homer, 15 RBI slate in a short season after he posted a career-high line of 28 homers, 74 RBIs with a .251 average.
The Yankees realized what Gardner has meant to the franchise and the fans. He deserved a second chance.
There still is 30-year-old Mike Tauchman, the valuable 2019 pickup who also can play all three outfield positions.
Like Gardner, Tauchman will look to regain his form this season. Should Gardner falter, Tauchman also is an insurance policy. Miguel Andujar –if he isn’t traded — should log some in the outfield, and prized rookie Estean Florial could get a look.
Until that happens, Gardner will have his role without the spotlight. He’s defied the odds before.
In all likelihood, though, Gardner will remind fans and his peers about his past, current, and future status in Yankees’ lore.