Brett Gardner Makes His Spring Debut

For New York Yankees fans, Wednesday’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays was notable because it featured the first Grapefruit League appearance of 2015 All-Star left fielder Brett Gardner, who has been dealing with a bone bruise on his left wrist sustained during this catch in last year’s Wild Card game:

Gardner went 0-for-2 in his debut but told reporters that everything felt fine and he was happy to be back out on the field. While it wasn’t the most successful day at the plate, his swing didn’t appear to be adversely affected. He chopped a grounder to the second baseman in his first at-bat and struck out looking after working a full count against Drew Hutchison his second time up.

With two weeks of spring training games left to play, it appears that Gardner should be ready for Opening Day as long as he doesn’t aggravate the injury. A bone bruise can sometimes linger for up to a year, so it is difficult to say when Gardner should be considered fully recovered. He rested the wrist for much of the winter, avoiding his usual offseason routine. The first time Gardner saw anything resembling live pitching since October was an indoor batting practice session on March 1. Otherwise, the extent of his hitting this winter was off of a tee and soft toss. Gardner will undoubtedly have some rust to shake off in the early going. Hopefully, the team recognizes this and doesn’t rush him into the lineup before he’s ready. New York has enough upper-level outfield depth to allow Gardner to take his time coming back if he’s not quite 100 percent. Aaron Hicks, Dustin Ackley, Ben Gamel, and Slade Heathcott are more than capable replacements.

Another reason to be cautious with Gardner’s return is that this is far from his first wrist injury. He struggled with tendinitis in his right wrist during the 2010 campaign, to the point where he underwent surgery to address it following the season. Yankees hitting coach Alan Cockrell attributed Gardner’s second-half struggles last year to a lingering wrist issue caused by being hit with a pitch on April 13. Gardner hit an abysmal .206/.300/.292 in his final 293 plate appearances after the hot start that earned him his first career All-Star nod. He’s got a history of trying to play through pain, but ultimately that is not doing the club any good. It’s much more important to have him healthy so he can contribute at full strength. At 32, given his history of fading down the stretch, easing Gardner into the regular season with plenty of rest might be the best option for New York.

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