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 is done as a major leaguer. 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.
Russo has also hit .250 with a pair of doubles and four RBI. He has come through twice in big spots, being in the middle of two Yankee rallies against the New York Mets, plus another in Minnesota.
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 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 against Francisco Liriano of the Twins, Russo struck out swinging on two straight sliders.
Next time up, Russo deposited another slider into the left field corners for a run scoring double, which tied the game up at 1-1 in the fourth inning.
In game adjustments are huge in helping teams win games.
Plus, despite being a middle infielder most of his minor league career, has taken well to 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.
Russo also give the Yankees versatility due to his ability to play infield (Short, second and third) plus probably all the outfield positions in case another injury occurs.
Winn offers nothing more than does Russo and does not deserve to be a Yankee anymore. 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.
I have read where the Yankees are paying Winn over a million bucks this season, Plus Russo can be sent back to Triple A for “regular playing time,” and to 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 tow seasons in Scranton, he does not get better with four at bats for 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 since his power production will not be there. The Yankees have 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 utility type of versatile player ready to take Russo’s place. He is an expendable piece when he gets too expensive.
But right now he is the best bet for that fifth outfielder. Russo is a nice complementary player who has a better game than Randy Winn, while making less money.
The easy move would be to send him back down to the minors, but the gutsy (and correct) move should be to keep him in the majors.