Thames a near-lock vs. lefties
Usually productive against southpaws, slugger will find time
BOSTON -- Marcus Thames was in the Yankees' starting lineup on Tuesday against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.
Consider that the beginning of a trend.
Barring a change in policy, Thames will play nearly every time the Yankees face a lefty starter. Rarely will he play when they don't. Most often, as he did on Tuesday at Fenway Park, Thames will spell Brett Gardner in left field. But from time to time, he also may start in favor of Curtis Granderson -- who has struggled throughout his career against left-handed pitching -- in center field, with Nick Swisher in right.
Against right-handed starters, the normal outfield of Gardner, Granderson and Swisher will usually remain intact.
"That's been my whole career pretty much," Thames said. "I know my role. That's what I've been doing for the last six years."
Throughout Spring Training -- and as recently as Sunday evening -- Girardi mentioned that Gardner could play his way into an everyday role. But when Girardi scribbled out his lineup card for Game 2 of the season, he left Gardner's name off it. And that's no coincidence.
Against lefties, Gardner is likely to play only if Thames is subbing for Granderson, thereby forcing Gardner over to his natural position in center field. Either way, the Yankees will do what they can to find at-bats for Thames.
"This is why we got Marcus," Girardi said. "We want to see him produce."
The theory is that Thames, who owns a career .516 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers compared to .474 against righties, can help the heavily left-handed Yankees neutralize power lefty pitching.
"There are a lot of different things that we thought we could do with him," Girardi said. "But for the most part, his numbers against left-handers are probably what spoke the loudest."
Changeup a priority for Hughes
BOSTON -- There were no fielders. There were no fans. But Phil Hughes brought the same intensity to Monday's simulated game in Tampa, Fla., that he hopes to bring to the Yankee Stadium mound next week.
Hughes, who won't start until April 15 against the Angels, featured a sharp curveball and changeup in throwing 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes.
"He was great yesterday," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before Tuesday's game at Fenway Park. "He threw really, really well."
As he did all of Spring Training, Hughes spent much of his outing working on honing his changeup into game shape. And it apparently worked. Hughes struck out 12 Minor Leaguers and scattered three hits over 8 1/3 shutout innings.
"My confidence in general with it is tremendous right now," Hughes said of his changeup. "I just hope it translates over when I have to make big pitches in the middle of some tough innings. I think that's going to be a real test for me."
Pettitte 'ready to go'
BOSTON -- Don't harp on the fact that Andy Pettitte made just two Grapefruit League starts all spring. Come Wednesday, he'll be ready.
"I feel good about everything," said Pettitte, who will start the Yankees' series finale against the Red Sox on Wednesday. "I'm ready to go. Good or bad, however I start out the season, it's not going to be because of Spring Training."
In his final spring start, Pettitte felt gassed by the fifth inning, unused to pitching in game situations. Weather and a host of extenuating circumstances had forced him to cancel multiple spring starts, transforming his second Grapefruit League tune-up into his last one.
In Boston, though, under the lights of Fenway Park, Pettitte's adrenaline should help him find the extra endurance he needs.
"Not a whole lot excites me anymore," Pettitte said. "But the energy in this ballpark makes it a little more entertaining than other places, for sure."
Yanks' bullpen roles not cemented
BOSTON -- Though Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn't have a definitive blueprint for this year's bullpen, he'd like to find one. And soon.
"I think it's important," Girardi said. "That's why we want to get this ironed out as soon as possible. To know that when the phone rings, it's probably going to be me. ... That's one of the things that we need to work out as quickly as possible."
As it stands right now, Joba Chamberlain slots in as the eighth-inning setup man. Damaso Marte will face the toughest lefties, and David Robertson should see plenty of late-game situations. But Girardi is basing most of his decisions right now on statistics. He'd like to change that.
Ideally, Girardi would like to name an eighth-inning reliever, a seventh-inning guy, and so on and so forth. Creating such a pecking order may take all season. But it's important, he believes, to the psyche of a bullpen.
"Right now, we're looking at matchups a lot," Girardi said.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.