10/16/12 6:46 PM ET
A-Rod, Swisher sit; Gardner leads off for Yanks
Chavez, Ichiro replace pair of struggling bats at third base, right field
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Yankees manager Joe Girardi will try to spark his flagging lineup by giving Brett Gardner his first start since April 17, batting leadoff and playing left field against Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
"We're going to put a little bit more speed in there, and hoping that Gardy can ignite us a little bit and put some tough at-bats early in the game on Verlander and try to get his pitch count up," Girardi said.
For the second time this postseason, Girardi has benched Rodriguez in favor of Eric Chavez at third base, repeating a move he made in the deciding Game 5 of the AL Division Series against the Orioles.
Rodriguez has enjoyed some success against Verlander, going 4-for-6 with two homers against the hurler this year, but he is 0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitching this postseason and just 3-for-23 (.130) overall.
In addition, Girardi is starting Eduardo Nunez over Jayson Nix at shortstop, saying Nunez's speed outweighs any defensive deficiencies he has.
"Nuney's had some pretty good at-bats off of Verlander," Girardi said. "Even though it's a few [1-for-3], he's had some pretty good at-bats."
With the Yankees down 0-2 in the ALCS, an obstacle just three teams have ever come back from, Girardi said that his moves should not be construed as having been born out of panic.
"I laugh, because if I stay the same, people say, 'What are you doing? You've got to make some changes,'" Girardi said. "People are going to have their opinions all along on what our lineup is, but we've moved our lineup around before.
"I've got Chavy playing today, and I did it in Game 5. We weren't panicking then. We're not panicking, but we're trying to create some runs and scratch some runs across."
Girardi said that there were "no other issues" leading to his lineup choices. A New York Post article published Tuesday reported Rodriguez spent time during the later innings of ALCS Game 1 chatting with female fans behind the Yankees' dugout.
Similarly, Girardi said that his lineup choices had nothing to do with fallout from comments made by Swisher after ALCS Game 2, in which Swisher said that he had been hurt by negative comments from fans in the right-field stands at Yankee Stadium. Swisher is just 11-for-61 (.180) with 23 strikeouts against Verlander.
"He's not the only guy, but he's one of the guys who's struggling, and with the type of [fly-ball] pitcher that [Phil] Hughes is, we've got a fast outfield," Girardi said.
Gardner will patrol left field, with Curtis Granderson in center and Ichiro Suzuki in right.
Gardner suffered a right elbow strain diving for a fly ball on April 17 and has limited to just four at-bats since having arthroscopic surgery in July, including a 12th-inning groundout to end ALCS Game 1.
Girardi said that the Yankees gave Gardner four or five at-bats against pitchers Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia on Monday at Yankee Stadium before flying to Detroit, recognizing that is hardly a substitute for facing Verlander, against whom he is 5-for-11 (.455), including the postseason, with three walks and three strikeouts.
"It's not like I'm giving him a warm up," Girardi said. "But we tried to get him some at-bats yesterday to try to prepare him for this the best we could. We have some guys that are struggling, there's no secret to that. Gardy played well this time of year last year, so we're going to run him out there."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.