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Gardner trying to keep both hands on bat

New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner hits

New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner hits a fourth-inning triple to right in the Yankees 10-8 loss to the Washington Nationals in their spring training game at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. (March 5, 2011) Credit: AP

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Derek Jeter isn't the only Yankee tinkering with his swing.

Brett Gardner, who flourished in the first half of last year before fading in the second - in large part because of a lingering right wrist injury - has been working on keeping both hands on the bat during his follow-through.

"Instead of my hand flying off the bat at different times, depending where the pitch is, if I keep both hands on the bat, I'm going to have a more consistent swing, and that's the ultimate goal," Gardner said Sunday.

Throughout his career, to get out of the box quicker, the lefthanded-hitting Gardner has released his top hand at or just after contact.

"Sometimes I would actually take both hands off the bat too early, my bat would fly around, hit the catcher," Gardner said. "I've had to apologize to catchers, umpires. This, it could slow me down a 10th of a second getting out of the box, but ultimately, if it leads to me being more consistent at the plate, that's what I'm shooting for."

The change, one Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson made last year, is something Gardner decided on in the offseason. After having surgery on his wrist Dec. 7, about the only thing he could do was think. "I thought of it this winter when I was sitting around bored and I couldn't hit yet," said Gardner, who didn't pick up a bat until late January. "Just decided to try and mentally make the change. So far, it feels pretty good."

Hitting coach Kevin Long said Gardner brought the idea to him and he was all for it. "He talked about the advantages of holding on with two hands throughout his swing, and we both agreed the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages," Long said. "With two hands, you have to be shorter and more compact to the ball. You can't work out front, which I think is to his advantage."

The switch-hitting Teixeira made the change in his lefthanded swing at midseason in 2010. "When you let go with one hand, it's so much easier to get the bat head too far out," Teixeira said. "You force yourself to swing with two hands, your swing gets a little shorter, you let the ball travel a little better."

Teixeira said the adjustment was minor, one he got used to in about a week. "A guy like Gardy, who has such a short swing anyway, I don't think it will be too tough for him," he said.

Gardner, 3-for-9 in five games, said he feels "comfortable" with the change, making his primary concern staying healthy this season. He said his wrist is 100 percent, which wasn't the case last season.

It became an issue in the season's second half, though Gardner still won't use it as an alibi. After hitting .309 with a .396 OBP in the first half, Gardner dipped to .232 and .364 in the second. He finished at .277 with a .383 OBP.

"I'd love to play 162 games this year and not take a day off," Gardner said. "I'm pretty miserable when I'm not playing this game. For me, that's my goal this year."

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