For the first time this season Thursday night, Giancarlo Stanton did not hit third for the Yankees.
Manager Aaron Boone opted to move the struggling slugger to the cleanup spot for the Yankees’ series-opening 4-3 win over the Blue Jays at the Stadium. Didi Gregorius shifted up to hit third while Aaron Judge remained in the two spot.
Boone said his decision largely hinged on matchups. Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez has been significantly tougher on right-handed batters in his career — he’s held such hitters to a .212 average, versus .238 for lefties, in five seasons — and so Boone saw an opportunity to split up righties Judge and Stanton, who hit second and third, respectively, in each of the Bombers’ first 16 games this year.
Stanton went 1-for-3 with an infield single in the fifth inning and a walk in the seventh. He worked a full count in three of his four plate appearances, and Boone liked what he saw from his prized offseason addition.
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“A lot of deep counts,” Boone said. “I thought he was on pitches a lot more, laying off pitches just out of the zone. …A good positive step for him in being able to leg out a hit and then work the walk there at the end. I thought he controlled his at-bats tonight, controlled the zone.”
Boone cautioned against reading too far into the lineup shakeup, though. He’s “not necessarily” looking to keep Stanton in the cleanup spot for an extended period of time. And Boone was adamant that he will not be moving Stanton any further than fifth in the lineup.
“It’s more our personnel verse their pitching,” Boone said.”I’m not ready to move him down down in the order. I still want him surrounded by impact guys, because as I think I said after the game the other day, you move him down and all of a sudden he’s one good at-bat maybe from getting locked back in, and then all of sudden you’re in a situation where it’s a blatant pitch-around and those kind of things.
“He’s too close to hopefully finding that feeling to where he can lock in, and so I have no intentions of moving him down any further. Whether it’s fifth or third or fourth, those are always flexible depending on what we have. But I don’t plan on moving him to bottom half of the lineup.”
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (plantar fasciitis) remains “slow going” in Tampa, according to Boone. He was scheduled to hit off a tee Thursday.
Clint Frazier (concussion) was slated to participate in a “full bore” workout with Tampa on Thursday, Boone said. “He’ll be taking BP and doing his defensive work, so maybe at some point in the very near future, maybe at-bats in games are starting to follow,” Boone added.
Brandon Drury (severe migraines) took BP and fielded grounders during pregame at the Stadium.
Greg Bird (right ankle surgery), meanwhile, is “moving in the right direction,” according to Boone.
“Bird had a really good day, actually ran on the field, played catch, hit,” Boone said. “So hopefully guys are starting to trend in the right way, and obviously look forward to getting a lot those guys back in the mix.”
The Yankees will hold a more-intense defensive session ahead of Friday’s game against the Blue Jays, Boone said. The coaching staff had been planning the extra defensive work for about a week. The Yankees committed their A.L.-worst 18th error in Thursday night’s win.
“We’ll do a lot more than just the basic stuff,” Boone said. “It’s something that needs to improve and I’m confident will continue to improve.”
Tyler Austin attended his appeal hearing for his five-game suspension on Thursday morning and was told to expect a ruling at some point next week.
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