NEW YORK -- As the Yankees prepare to embark on their second road trip of the season to Oakland, Los Angeles and Baltimore, manager Joe Girardi is starting to get a feel for his everyday lineup -- one that includes a left-field platoon between Brett Gardner and Marcus Thames.
The left-handed-hitting Gardner has acquitted himself nicely at the plate early in the year with a .296 average and .387 on-base percentage. And once Gardner gets on base, he can create havoc, as shown by his five stolen bases in just seven starts.
After Gardner had three infield hits in Saturday's win over the Rangers, Texas manager Ron Washington compared the outfielder's impact to that of Ichiro Suzuki.
"I hope Gardy gets 2,000 hits in 10 years," Girardi said when asked about the comparison. "He creates issues, and Ichiro creates issues for opposing players. They can change a game, and it's not necessarily with one swing of the bat. It's when they get on base."
At the same time, Thames has gotten off to a hot start, with five hits in his first 10 at-bats. Thames has done that damage almost exclusively against left-handed pitching, and he will likely start three of the first six games of the Bombers' road trip against southpaws.
"Thames has swung the bat well, and I like what we've seen from him," Girardi said. "Thames is going to get some time, and [the platoon] has worked pretty good."
In his career, Thames is a .261 hitter against lefties and .233 against right-handers. He also slugs 45 points higher against southpaws.
"I'm just trying to take one game at a time and have some good at-bats," Thames said. "I prepare myself like I play every day. That's the way I've always been. I always know my role, and whenever my name is on the lineup card, I'll be ready to play."
The strong start to the year has made the transition back to New York even easier for Thames. Brought up in the Yankees' organization, Thames returned to the Bronx this season after seven seasons in Texas and Detroit.
"I started in this organization, so I know a lot of people around here -- just a bunch of great guys," Thames said. "I just try to do my part, stay out of the way and help as much as I can. All the guys are awesome, and it makes it easier when you have a lot of great guys around."
Jeter gets day off to recuperate from cold
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter wasn't in the Yankees' starting lineup on Sunday because of a head cold.
Ramiro Pena started at shortstop while Brett Gardner, who had three infield hits and a stolen base on Saturday, moved up to the leadoff spot.
Jeter left Saturday's 7-3 win over the Rangers in the seventh inning due to the cold, and manager Joe Girardi said he planned to give the shortstop the day off if he didn't feel better.
"I noticed it yesterday, and it's been going around our clubhouse. Some guys it affects more than others. I want to see how he's breathing today," Girardi said.
Apparently Jeter didn't look well enough for his manager, who decided to go with Pena at shortstop. Pena has yet to make a start this season and is 0-for-1 at the plate. He hit .287 in 115 at-bats in 2009.
It's a rare day off for Jeter, who has averaged 151 games per season in his 14 full years with the Yankees and has played fewer than 148 only once, in 2003. Jeter had led off all 11 of the Bombers' games this season, hitting .380 with three home runs.
Vazquez pinpoints rhythm issue on mound
NEW YORK -- Saddled with two of the Yankees' three losses this season, Javier Vazquez is off to a slow start, and he attributes it to being too quick on the mound.
Vazquez came out of his Saturday bullpen session concentrating on staying back and in rhythm on the mound and not getting ahead of himself during his delivery.
"In the game, you get the adrenaline going and start rushing a bit," Vazquez said. "It's easily correctable."
When Vazquez gets too quick with his delivery, his fastball has a tendency to both tail a little out of his hand and straighten out in the strike zone. That has led to two disappointing outings in his return to pinstripes. Vazquez is 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA, reminding fans more of his late-season swoon in 2004 with the Bombers than of his banner season in Atlanta last year. He was booed as early as the second inning in his home debut Wednesday.
"Fans are fans, and once I start pitching better, they'll root for me," Vazquez said, pointing out that the fans even booed Derek Jeter during his first stint in the Bronx in 2004. "I know what to expect. You've just got to forget about it and not let it bother you."
For his part, manager Joe Girardi thought Vazquez improved from his first start in Tampa to his second against the Angels. He expects even better results against the Athletics.
"For Javy, it's making sure he has a good angle on his fastball," Girardi said. "I thought he threw better in the second start. If that trend continues, I think he'll throw well Tuesday night."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.