The bench in the Yankees’ dugout was a bit shorter than in the Royals’ dugout across the way at Yankee Stadium. The home team was down Mark Teixeira because of neck spasms and Jacoby Ellsbury again with his hip strain, leaving only Ronald Torreyes and Austin Romine in reserve.
“Just little nicks,” Joe Girardi said before Tuesday night’s 10-7 win over Kansas City at the Stadium.
Those nicks — and throw Alex Rodriguez’s strained hamstring on the pile from the DL — opened opportunities for some bench guys to see some light.
Fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks started for Ellsbury in center for the fourth straight game. Dustin Ackley, the starter three times in right and twice at first in the past seven games, took first for Teixeira, who missed his first game. And with Carlos Beltran serving as the DH for the sixth time in these seven games, Ben Gamel made his first big-league start, manning rightfield.
How’d they do? Pretty well. Hicks doubled in Ackley for a 7-6 lead in the seventh and finished 2-for-3 with a walk, his first multihit game. Ackley preceded Hicks with the tying single and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice fly. And Gamel, who singled in his first at-bat in the majors Monday night, was 0-for-4 but scored the tiebreaking run in the eighth.
“Any time you’re able to go out there four games or five games in a row, it’s huge,” Ackley said. “You get your timing. You’re able to see pitches and get your swing where it needs to be. I feel great right now.”
The Yankees really need Hicks to start steadily belting out hits. The 26-year-old switch hitter, who batted .225 across parts of the last three seasons with Minnesota, can play all the outfield spots and is in line for regular at-bats against lefties. But he began painfully slow with sporadic swings.
Now he has made seven straight starts, going 6-for-21 with two homers and five RBIs, bringing him up to .170.
“I just feel the more at-bats I’m getting, the better I’m feeling on both sides, actually,” Hicks said.
The lefty-hitting Ackley came over from Seattle last July 30 and batted .288. The infielder/outfielder is now up to .143 — 5-for-35 — with three RBIs.
The lefty-hitting Gamel, who turns 24 next Tuesday, came up last Thursday. The 2010 10th-round pick broke out with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, batting .300 on the way to International League Rookie of the Year.
“I’m glad I got to be out there for a whole game,” Gamel said. “It was awesome. I couldn’t ask for a better game from my teammates.”