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Joe Girardi Is Considering Batting Brett Gardner Leadoff

Derek Jeter led off last night’s game — a 4–0 Yankees win, thanks to a strong outing from Freddy Garcia — with a single, but that hit was just his fifth since the All-Star break. Indeed, since the break, Jeter’s gone cold, batting .192 with just one walk and no extra base hits. Meanwhile, over that same span, Brett Gardner’s been red hot, putting up a ridiculous slash line of .560/.621/.680. Yes, that’s a small sample size (their overall numbers aren't quite so extreme), but this seems like a good time to repeat what we said last month: Now that Jeter’s got his 3,000th hit, the Yankees should use this opportunity to bat Gardner leadoff, not just because he’s having a better season than Jeter, but because, from a PR standpoint, they’d be wise to drop Jeter in the order not just because he’s struggling, but because other players (like Gardner and Curtis Granderson) have earned the top spots.

And it seems that Joe Girardi’s at least thinking about making a move of some sort. Here's Girardi, speaking before last night's game:

"I might (move Gardner to the leadoff spot)," Girardi said. "He's going so well, it's something I'll definitely consider. Just wait and see what happens." 

Of course, he'd be crazy not to at least be thinking about it: Gardner's numbers are far too good for a No. 9 hitter, which is where he batted in last night's order. The question, then, becomes what to do with Jeter, and it's possible Girardi could use Alex Rodriguez's absence as a way to get creative with his lineup and avoid any headline-making changes. He could bat Gardner leadoff and Jeter second, followed by Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano, and doing so wouldn't create much of a stir: Jeter's batted second plenty in his career. (He actually had penciled in a top three of Gardner, Jeter, and Granderson on July 8, but the game was rained out.) It's when he drops Jeter further down in the order — something he'll have to do eventually — that his batting order will become back-page news.

Girardi doesn't appear close to making that bolder lineup change now, and if he's comfortable with the order described above — the one with Jeter batting second and Granderson batting third — then he can postpone that decision until A-Rod comes back (assuming at least that the Yankees don't add a bat in the next two weeks). Here's some insight into Girardi's thinking on the matter, from the Times:

Considering a lineup change while Jeter was pursuing a milestone would have overshadowed the chase. Girardi said his decisions are not driven by one player's performance, and that if he were to consider a more serious drop for Jeter — like putting him in the bottom third of the order — he would have a long conversation with him beforehand.

That is what he did on May 14 with Posada, who was to bat ninth before asking out of the lineup. That situation turned ugly, and Girardi said he learned a little from it, though he did not elaborate what could help him if it arose again. He added he is nowhere close to having that chat with Jeter now.

When asked if he was perhaps scared about eventually having that talk, Girardi said: "I mean, I have to do what I feel is best for the team. And, as I said, when you look up at a lineup, you look at how it works together, not independent of one guy. But no, I'm not afraid to have that conversation." 

That conversation doesn't appear to be imminent, but once everyone is healthy again (if not sooner), he should remember that thing he said about doing what's best for the team. At least against righties. You've gotta start somewhere.