The New York Yankees are expecting starting center fielder Curtis Granderson back for Friday's game against the visiting Cleveland Indians. It will be a welcome sight to have Granderson back, and the Yankees could use his potential power bat back in the lineup.
With Granderson out, Brett Gardner moved from left field to center, with a myriad of talent alternating in Gardner-land. Marcus Thames, Randy Winn and Kevin Russo have manned left field during the 24 games in which Granderson has missed.
You know my thoughts on Thames, and Randy Winn appears done as a major leaguer. Winn had a nice career, though, with over 1700 hits and a .285 average in 13 seasons.
In Granderson's absence, those two left fielders have hit a combined 16 for 64 (.250) with a home run, nine RBI and 15 strike outs.
Thames had to face a lot of right handed pitchers (not his strong smoot), and Winn just can not catch up with a decent major league fastball anymore. He literally swings through 90 MPH fastballs over the middle of the plate.
However, neither one has played much left field recently as rookie Kevin Russo has manned the position five straight games, starting four of them.
Big George must have loved those Mets moments, and if was the same blustery King, Russo would be the choice now to remain.
But no matter who is making the decision (Hal, Hank, Brian Cashman or General Joe), Russo still should be kept on the roster over Winn.
While Russo can hit for average (career .315 BA at Triple A), he will not hit for much power, cranking only six home runs in just under 500 Triple A at bats.
But Winn does not hit for average or power, either.
Russo also has a great approach at the plate and adjusts very well. For instance, his first time up Wednesday night against Francisco Liriano of the Twins, Russo struck out swinging on two straight sliders.
Next time up, Russo deposited another Liriano slider into the left field corner for a run scoring double, which tied the game up at 1-1 in the fourth inning. By the way, great hustle by Francisco Cervelli on a potential inning-ending double play allowed Russo to get that at bat.
In game adjustments are huge in helping teams win games.
Plus, despite being a middle infielder most of his minor league career, Russo has taken well to playing left field. He has made several catches at or near the fence, including a long drive off the bat of JJ Hardy in the ninth inning of the first game in Minnesota.
Does Winn catch that ball?
He also made a nice running catch off the bat of Joe Mauer in the second Twins game.
Also, Russo primary quality is that he gives the Yankees versatility due to his ability to play infield (short, second and third base) plus probably all the outfield positions. In case another injury occurs, that is very important to a managers in-game decisions.
Winn offers nothing more than does Russo and does not deserve to be a Yankee past the Minnesota series. His reason for even being a Yankee was in playing all three outfield positions and providing a veteran presence.
This is nullified with Russo's versatility and ability to hit.
As for reasons to keep Winn, I have read where the Yankees are paying Winn over a million bucks this season. In addition, Russo can be sent back to Triple A for "regular playing time," and keep his major league service time down.
When does money matter to the Yankees, and where is that playing against Triple A players helps you be a better player?
Russo has shown he can play in the majors by already collecting a few big hits and playing good defense. After two seasons in Scranton, he does not get better with four at bats per game during the next few months at Triple A.
Also, his service time should never be an issue, because Russo does not appear to be an everyday player in the majors. His power production will not be there to warrant a full time career. Going forward, the Yankees have regular starting players at each position for about three seasons, and don't need Russo for anything more than how he is used now.
If by chance several years down the line to where he needs to go to arbitration, then the Yankees will probably have another versatile, utility-type player ready to take Russo's place. He is an expendable piece if he gets too expensive.
The easy move would be to send Russo back down to the minors, but the gutsy (and correct) move should be to keep him in the majors.