After Melky Cabera’s terrible 2008, the door is wide open in CF, creating quite an interesting position battle that will play out this spring. Based on Pete Caldera’s latest, it seems as though the two candidates — Melky and Brett Gardner — are already pushing each other as they both attempt to win the starting job.
Cabrera admitted that the competition against Gardner forced him to drop out of the World Baseball Classic, where he was listed on the Dominican Republic’s roster.
“I need to play [here],” Cabrera said. “I need to show the manager I’m here every day, and play hard.”
Smart move by Melky. Initially, I thought CF was basically his to lose in camp, however, after hearing Girardi rave about Brett Gardner’s speed, I’m not too sure if that’s true.
“He creates havoc. I think that’s probably the best way to describe him offensively,” Girardi said of the lefty-hitting Gardner, who stole 13 bases in 14 attempts in 42 games with the Yanks last summer. “Every time he’s on the base paths, it changes the way the pitcher thinks, it changes the way the defense thinks.”
If Willy Taveras can be a regular outfielder, there’s no reason Brett Gardner can’t be, as well. In fact, he’s been working on putting the ball on the ground this off-season so that he can take advantage of the speed that Girardi and others seem to love.
Gardner spent the winter working on his bunting. “It’s something I plan to incorporate more this season,” he said.
Gardner’s speed, patience and defense could allow him to become the favorite. Basically, Melky will have to hit his way into the lineup, as that is the only skill he posseses that Gardner doesn’t necessarily have. Of course, if Melky fails to hit, not only will he find himself on the bench or in AAA, but he could also find himself sitting in another organization’s clubhouse.