Brett Gardner has wrapped himself in pinstripes for his entire 11-year career with the Yankees.
He isn’t about to deviate from that now that his playing time in leftfield has diminished in favor of Andrew McCutchen.
If he isn’t on the field, Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee and member of the 2009 World Series championship team, will celebrate from the bench, as he did Saturday night as the Yankees clinched a wild-card berth with a 3-2 victory over the Orioles in 11 innings.
Gardner, 35, will not complain. He is hitting .237 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs, and his batting average is the lowest in any of his full seasons with the team.
“I don’t feel like it’s that complicated,’’ he said. “I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on. Right now, especially at this point in the season, it’s not about me, it’s about the team, the postseason and playing our best baseball. Whenever I’m going to play, I’ll be ready for it.”
Gardner is, for now, the odd man out. When Aaron Judge returned from the disabled list last week to play rightfield, McCutchen took over in left.
“They’re going to put who they feel gives us the best chance to win out on the field,’’ Gardner said, “and unfortunately, up to this point in the season, I haven’t played well enough to prove I should be one of those guys out there. Just gotta keep working and being ready and stay prepared for any opportunity I may get.”
McCutchen knows the situation with Gardner could have been delicate. “You understand someone’s been there,’’ said McCutchen, who was acquired from the Giants on Aug. 31. “Him being here his whole career and the history that he has with this ballclub, just kinda me showing up, then putting me in left. Of course, that’s not something where you’re happy about it or excited.”
Aaron Boone has said there will be playing time for Gardner, but the manager has heaped praise on McCutchen for his ability to get on base. He has drawn 18 walks and has a .412 on base percentage in his first 19 games.
Boone also is pleased with McCutchen’s work in left.
“Seems fairly comfortable, has made all the plays, so I think it’s a positive,” Boone said. “We knew he could handle it, just the kind of athlete he is and the willingness and the kind of pro he’s been here since coming over. So I wasn’t worried about the buy-in or his ability to do it over the long haul.’’
Gardner said he has been injury-free and has no reason why he hasn’t produced. The club holds a $12.5-million option to keep him for next season or a $2-million buyout to let him go.
“I can’t place blame for maybe my lack of production this year on an injury or anything like that physically,” he said. “Just haven’t swung the bat as well as I would have liked, and I can’t place that blame on any one thing. Just me being inconsistent.’’