TAMPA, Fla. — Brett Gardner went 0-for-2 in his first spring training action Wednesday night in the Yankees’ 2-1 win over the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field.
After grounding out and striking out, Gardner wanted a third at-bat — who wouldn’t after sitting out all spring because of a left wrist injury? — but manager Joe Girardi thought two was enough.
“I don’t think one at-bat’s going to change his life,” Girardi said.
No, but one tussle with the right-centerfield wall at Yankee Stadium did change Gardner’s offseason. Gardner injured his wrist going after a deep ball in the Yankees’ loss to Houston in the wild-card playoff game.
During the offseason, he kept waiting for the bone bruise to get better. He went for more tests, did physical therapy and did not pick up a bat all winter.
So at what point in the offseason did he feel 100 percent?
“Never,” he said. “Never. It was one of those things where we kind of expected it to go away, expected it to get better. As November got there and really just started to get closer to Thanksgiving, further removed from the season, six, seven weeks, I knew something was still there and still aggravating me and keeping me from doing what I normally wanted to do in the offseason. It was kind of a frustrating offseason dealing with all that.”
If Gardner’s wrist doesn’t hold up, it could be a frustrating regular season for the 32-year-old. Gardner has a history of fading in the second half because of various injuries. And wrists can be notoriously slow to heal.
“I think the big thing is keeping him healthy,” Girardi said. “If he stays as healthy as he can be, I think he’ll have a good season . . . I really believe in my heart he’ll be there Opening Day.”
The Yankees have brought Gardner along slowly. After he passed the test last night, he’ll play again Friday and every other day for a while.
“Just kind of easing me back into it,” Gardner said. “But overall felt good and it was a lot of fun to get back out there.”
With Gardner back, the Yankees had almost their entire regular lineup in against Toronto righthander Drew Hutchison. The exception was Gary Sanchez, who started behind the plate with Brian McCann still nursing a sore knee.
McCann has been out since leaving Sunday’s game after two innings, but is expected back today. It’s possible the Yankees could have their entire starting nine together soon for the first time. Opening Day is April 4 and Girardi said it’s time to start making decisions.
“I’ve been really pleased with our pitching,” he said. “I think our starters have done a really good job. Obviously, we’re trying to iron out some of the bullpen issues that we have to iron out . . . Figuring out the utility (infielder) is important. The backup catcher’s really important to us. I’m pleased with where we are, but we still have a lot of decisions to make.”
Notes & quotes: The Yankees don’t have a true backup middle infielder, but as of Wedensday night they had not shown any interest in Ruben Tejada, who was released by the Mets . . . Starlin Castro (1-for-2) hit a two-run homer to right-center and is batting .429 . . . Nathan Eovaldi (46 pitches) only lasted two scoreless innings . . . Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect inning.