NEW YORK -- For years, the Yankees have seen a growing number of instances in which teams shift their infield against New York hitters. Now, the Yankees are starting to turn the tables.
It seemed more often than not in the Yankees' opening series in Tampa Bay, the Rays shifted their infield against sluggers like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has used a little bit of that strategy this week against the visiting Twins' sluggers.
"I don't think it's a reaction to what happened to us," Girardi said. "I think it's actually kind of to all the data that's being put out now that we're all seeing. Some of it is the kinds of pitchers we have, too, and how they'll affect it with how they pitch."
The Rays' Joe Maddon has made the shift a bit more mainstream, whereas just a year or two ago it was reserved for some of baseball's select few most notorious pull hitters. Now, it seems, anybody -- right-handed or left-handed, hitting for power or average -- might see a shortstop on the wrong side of second base.
"I think it's getting guys comfortable," Girardi said of the recent shift surge. "When you ask a guy to play on the opposite side, it's different. You hear guys talk about how you're looking at someone in a mirror, in a sense, when you're playing on the other side of a base."
Gardner lands on DL with right elbow injury
NEW YORK -- Twenty-four hours after he helped lead the Yankees to a win against the Twins, left fielder Brett Gardner was placed on the disabled list with a right elbow injury on Wednesday night.
Manager Joe Girardi said Gardner had a bruised right elbow and a muscle strain in that area, as a result of a diving catch he made in the third inning of New York's 8-3 win on Tuesday.
"He took [batting practice] today and said he felt fine, but when he went to take his swings today in the cage at 6:20 or 6:30, he wasn't fine," Girardi said after the Yankees' 6-5 loss Wednesday. "So at some point in between that time, it must have really flared up. So we sent him to get an MRI, and that's what the diagnosis was."
Gardner said after the game Tuesday that he experienced some wrist soreness after the play, but it had subsided by game's end and he did not expect it to be a lingering issue. But he was scratched from the starting lineup shortly before the first pitch Wednesday.
The outfielder was 2-for-2 with two doubles, two walks and a stolen base Tuesday.
Girardi said he's likely to turn to Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones, who played left field on Wednesday night, to fill the void. Eduardo Nunez could get a look there, as well.
"I take my ground balls, my fly balls every day, I throw to bases every day, so nothing really changes," said Ibanez, who was 2-for-4 on Wednesday, playing right field. "You prepare to play baseball, to be a baseball player and help your team win. It's very unfortunate -- Gardy's a huge part of our club, and it's very unfortunate."
If there's a silver lining, it's that the club will take the opportunity to get some much-needed bullpen help in Gardner's place. Girardi said the Yankees will call up right-hander Cody Eppley, who was claimed off waivers from the Rangers on April 5.
Eppley appeared in 10 games for Texas last season, allowing eight earned runs in nine innings of work. He has thrown 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.
The Yankees' bullpen has been taxed early on this season because of the starting pitching struggles. The rotation has just three quality starts this year.
"It's too early," catcher Russell Martin said. "We're not going to be in panic mode. I trust our pitching staff to get it going. Just some little bumps along the way right now."
Jones played left field Wednesday night and went 0-3 at the plate with two strikeouts, while struggling at times to find his bearings in the outfield.
Gardner has three multihit games this season, and was 3-for-11 with five runs, two doubles, an RBI, four walks and one stolen base on the homestand.
Martin's familiarity with Kuroda a help to Yanks
NEW YORK -- The offseason recruitment of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda included a catcher who knew plenty about the right-hander and a manager who knew very little.
Russell Martin, who has been behind the plate for all three of Kuroda's starts with the Yankees this year (including Wednesday night against the Twins), was also a member of the Dodgers from 2008-10. The Yankees acquired Kuroda from Los Angeles this winter.
"They wanted to know what kind of guy he was, what his stuff was like," Martin said of conversations he had with the Yankees' brass during their offseason pursuit of Kuroda. "I told them he's a professional pitcher, and there are days when he goes out there and he's unhittable. The main thing for him is you just have to keep him healthy. The only time I ever saw him struggle in L.A. was when he was banged up."
For manager Joe Girardi, his familiarity with Kuroda was limited to the one game the hurler started against the Yankees (Kuroda allowed four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings for the victory) and some game film.
"The only thing I knew about him was from what I'd seen in the one game he started against us and watching film," Girardi said. "Considering what type of pitcher he was, he's been pretty much a ground-ball pitcher for the good part of his career. He induces more ground balls than fly balls, and that bodes well usually, especially at this ballpark. He was a guy for me who has pitched in pressure-packed situations because of the expectations on him all the time, and pitching in L.A. So he was a good fit."
The language barrier -- Kuroda speaks to the media, and often teammates, through translator Kenji Nimura -- is an obstacle, but Martin said he doesn't have to guide Kuroda entirely through an outing.
"He understands the baseball terms pretty well," Martin said. "And he's the type of guy that prepares himself really well. He has charts of every single hitter and the areas to go to and he writes stuff down. Every meeting before games, he has his sheet with the strike zone broken into nine different squares. He just knows where to attack hitters and what their strengths and weaknesses are. When you have something laid out visually like that, you don't even have to speak to him."