Brett Gardner in leadoff spot for opener

Updated: March 31, 2011, 8:59 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Making a change from his 2010 game plan, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will bat Derek Jeter at his old No. 2 hole and will promote Brett Gardner to the leadoff spot for Opening Day.

This will be the Yankees' regular lineup against right-handed pitching. With the Detroit Tigers starting three right-handers beginning with Justin Verlander on Thursday, Gardner is expected to bat first in each game.

When the Yankees face left-handed pitching, Jeter will bat leadoff and Gardner will be shifted to the No. 9 spot.

"The job that he did against right-handed pitching last year," Girardi said of Gardner, "he was second on our club in on-base percentage. His ability to disrupt defenses, the pressure he puts on a pitching staff, his ability to score runs, we thought it is a pretty good fit. He is going to lead off on [Thursday] and we talked about Jete leading off against lefties."

Gardner has earned the promotion because of his .379 on-base percentage last year. His on-base percentage was consistent against right-handed (.387) and left-handed (.383) pitching, but his average was 35 points higher against righties (.287 compared to .252).

Jeter not batting leadoff may be the headline, but the move is really more about Gardner. The sequence of the lineup will remain intact against righties and lefties, with Gardner preceding Jeter, but with Gardner batting first against righties, he'll pick up more at-bats in the season.

"It possibly gives him 50, 60, 70 more at-bats," Girardi said. "If he is on close to 40 percent of the time, he is going to score more runs. You almost have to assume -- unless it is a ground-rule double -- that if he is on first he is going to score on a double."

Last year, Gardner led off 25 times; Jeter led off 137 times.

"It doesn't make a difference," Jeter said. "I've hit second more than I've hit first [in my career.] Who cares?"

Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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