Timing will be everything for Gardner
"I'm excited to get back on the field in the next few weeks," Gardner said Tuesday morning at P.S. 130 Elementary in the Bronx. "Probably right after Thanksgiving I'll start hitting and throwing again and really getting after it."
Gardner had what he called an "inconsistent" 2011, hitting .259 with a .345 on-base percentage, down from .277/.383 in 2010.
Gardner chalked up his decline in production to a timing issue, something he intends to work with hitting coach Kevin Long in January.
"It's obviously easier said than done," Gardner said. "But without good timing, you don't really have anything, it doesn't matter how good your mechanics are. I'm really trying to make a focus, and it's more mental than anything, of having better timing on a more consistent basis."
Gardner said the logistics of where he'll work with Long, who works with any Yankee who request his services in the offseason - and plenty do - hadn't yet been determined.
"I'm either going to go out to Arizona [Long's home] or he's going to come to South Carolina [Gardner's], or I might actually meet him down in Miami and work out with him and Alex [Rodriguez] and a couple other guys," Gardner said. "I'm excited to do a little work and maybe make a few adjustments with him."
Gardner's 2011 season wasn't a bad one by any stretch. He stole a career-best 49 bases, including 22 straight from June 25-Aug. 9. He was successful in 44 of his last 51 attempts. Gardner also played a superior left field, best in the AL according to more than a few scouts, though Alex Gordon of the Royals took home the Gold Glove.
"I'm definitely happy for him," Gardner said of Gordon. "For myself, I take a lot of pride in my defense, even to be mentioned for a Gold Glove is an honor for me. It's something I work really hard on and I'll try and be even better next year."
Gardner hopes that will be with the Yankees. Though it's not believed the Yankees are looking to trade him, Gardner heard talk - most of which had little to no validity - last offseason about the team going after Carl Crawford, who eventually signed with the Red Sox. Still, as most players in similar situations typically say, you never know.
"I try not to worry about it," he said. "It is was it is. There's obviously no better place to play than right here in the Bronx for the Yankees. We've got an unbelievable fan base and I've been very blessed to have gotten drafted by them and to have made it up and been here as long as I have. We'll see what happens. Hopefully I'll be here for a while. It's a great place to play and I love it."
As for his appearance at P.S. 130, Gardner was at the school to assist in the grand opening of a modernized library, featuring improved access to computers and books.
"It just made my day being able to see these kids come in here and see this new library for the first time," Gardner said after reading a children's book about Hank Aaron to a group of students in the library. "I'd never been to this school before but I saw some pictures of what it [the library] was before and I see what it is now. It just gives these kids so much more of an opportunity to learn while they're here. It helps provide them with more resources to learn and puts them in a better learning environment. The smiles on all these kids' faces when they ran in here and saw their library earlier today, that says it all."