ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Clint Frazier’s slow start at the plate isn’t the reason Brett Gardner started two games in a row in leftfield.
Aaron Boone said before Sunday’s series finale — an 8-4 Yankees win over the Rays at Tropicana Field in which Gardner again started in left — that he went with the lefty-hitting Gardner ahead of the righty-hitting Frazier because of the specific challenges posed by Tampa Bay’s always-difficult pitching staff.
"Just, against Tampa, the value, as much as they do matching up, to have a little balance in the lineup," Boone said. "And knowing we’ve got a couple of lefties coming up likely with Toronto. [It’s] a chance to get Gardy a couple of days in a row. I feel like he’s in a pretty good rhythm."
Gardner, who went 1-for-4 with a double in Saturday’s 4-0 loss and 1-for-3 with two walks Sunday, is 6-for-17 with a .947 OPS in seven games to start the season. Frazier is 5-for-25 with no homers and a .566 OPS through seven games.
Tropicana Field’s expansive outfield also may have been a factor. Gardner, in his 14th big-league season, has played here more than any other Yankee by far, and his experience showed Saturday. After a long run, he chased down Brett Phillips’ drive into the gap in left-center and robbed him of an extra-base hit.
Regardless, Boone said Frazier will "be right back in there and playing regularly" and added that
he had a conversation with Frazier.
"I touched base with him, no doubt,’’ Boone said. "Nothing’s changed as far as my expectations for him and the year I know he’s going to go out and have."
Rougned Odor, acquired from the Rangers last week, made his Yankees debut Sunday, starting at second and batting sixth. Odor went 1-for-5, with the one hit a go-ahead RBI single that sparked a four-run 10th.
Odor will fill in at second base, as he did Sunday. But he also will play third, a position he had never played before spring training this year.
Said Odor, "I played almost every game in spring training there and I felt really good playing there."
No progress for Schmidt
Boone disclosed before the game that righthander Clarke Schmidt, shut down at least since Feb. 22 with what the team first called a "right common extensor tendon" issue and now calls a "right elbow strain," will go for a second opinion.
Schmidt, a top organizational pitching prospect who entered camp as a long-shot contender for the open rotation spot that Domingo German won, still is having "a little bit of discomfort" in the elbow area and will be evaluated by a second specialist.
Before Sunday’s game, the Yankees, who optioned German to the alternate site after Saturday’s game, recalled righty prospect Albert Abreu, who struck out two in a perfect 10th inning. Boone said his expectation is that when the Yankees next need a fifth starter, German will get the nod . . . The Yankees announced that they had traded utilityman Thairo Estrada, at one point considered a top position prospect in the organization, to the Giants for cash considerations.