This humble writer has been a sceptic about Brett Gardner, chosen to be the starting center fielder as the New York Yankees begin the 2009 campaign.
This humble writer is a fan of Melky Cabrera and had hoped Cabrera would win back his starting position.
I have often written about the fact that Gardner has failed to prove himself at the major league level and that Cabrera had better stats in the minors.
Gardner started in center and had a challenge in the first inning. With a runner on third a fly ball was lofted in Gardner's direction in center. Gardner played the ball perfectly, waiting, positioning himself so that he was coming in on the ball as he caught it, put his forward momentum into the throw, and threw a perfect one hop strike to Jorge Posada at home.
The Cub runner slid in under the tag, but that wasn't the point. No one could have played the ball better than Gardner did and no one would have made a better throw.
In his first at bat, Gardner hit a ball into left center field and legged it into a double. It was a hit that on which few runners would have considered taking second base. It was not really in the gap. The center fielder for Chicago did not misplay the ball.
Gardner simply came out of the chute running hard all the way and made it to second easily. He cut the corner at first perfectly, tagging the corner of first base with his left foot as he turned for second, exactly as all young players are taught to do.
Later in the game with Cody Ransom on first, Gardner lay down a perfect bunt up the third base line, not only advancing Ransom to second, but getting a base hit in the mean time.
There is not another player on the current Yankee squad who could have stretched the first hit so easily into a double or made it easily to first on the bunt.
Gardner brings elements to the Yankee team that they have needed for a long time and his speed, both in the field and on the base paths, makes Yankee fans eager to see him play more.
This sceptic is still not convinced he can hit at the major league level. But it is going to be so much fun being proven wrong if Gardner continues to play as he did on Friday night.
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