The Yankees announced during Spring Training that Brett Gardner would be the team’s starting left fielder. Even though it’s early, he has only started half of the games. So what gives?

AP Photo: Charles Krupa

Gardner has provided some excitement to the lineup so far. He is 3 for 9 with two stolen bases in his three appearances(two starts). He also plays excellent outfield defense and gives the Yankees a speed threat, something that they have lacked for the past few years.

However, there is one issue. Outfielder Marcus Thames, who presents one puzzling question.

Why is Marcus Thames getting just as many starts as Gardner? He has already started twice in left field and is the team’s weakest defender. Many fans assumed that Thames would be the team’s primary pinch hitter late in games. He has only one hit and made an ill-advised attempt at a diving catch in the 4th inning last night, allowing the Rays to score two runs.  Thames splits against left-handed pitching are a little over-hyped. He is a career .256 hitter against lefties with 40 HRs. Thames’ -15.6 UZR isn’t going the Yankees any favors, either. So what’s the answer?

Let Brett start every game, regardless of match-up.

I know that it’s early in the season, but receiving playing time now is critical to his future success.

I noted here that Gardner is a plus defender and is one of the best defensive outfielders in the league. The Yankees need his defense and speed in the line-up each day. Baseball is all about rhythm and consistency. Sitting Gardner early on will not help him mature. Gardner is still raw(384 at-bats) and needs more seasoning. Gardner is not horrible against lefty-pitching (.247 career). However, he has a career .345 on-base percentage and a 89% stolen base conversion rate. The Yankees are not doing themselves any favors by leaving the speedy Gardner on the bench.

How would you manage the Yankees’ left field situation?

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