Jeter, Damon swap lineup spots
Girardi likes idea of captain hitting leadoff, outfielder in two-hole
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Yankees have liked seeing Johnny Damon bat second so much, manager Joe Girardi intends to keep toying with the top of his order.
Girardi said Thursday that he will use the rest of Spring Training to try out Derek Jeter as his leadoff hitter and move Damon to the No. 2 hole, believing that the Yankees may have found something that will increase production.
It happened largely by accident, in fact. Damon had been batting second to get Jorge Posada more at-bats as he resumes catching duties, but now that Jeter has returned from the World Baseball Classic, Damon will stay there.
"We kind of liked what we saw in that situation," Girardi said. "We're going to play with it more here over the next week."
Damon said Girardi showed the new lineup on Thursday morning. While Damon has said numerous times how proud he is of being a leadoff hitter and a table-setter, he said he had no problem batting second.
"I'm OK with it if it makes our team better," Damon said. "We know Derek's on-base percentage is a bit higher than mine. Hopefully, we can tinker with this thing, and my production in the two-hole could increase with someone on base quite a bit."
Jeter was not available for comment on Thursday, but Girardi said that his shortstop and captain were fine with the idea.
"I showed it to him Tuesday night, and he said, 'Great,'" Girardi said. "He had a smile on his face. He talked about hitting in the first inning, and he was all for it."
In the Yankees' 10-2 win over the Phillies on Thursday, the arrangement seemed to pay dividends.
Jeter worked a full count in his first at-bat against Phillies starter Carlos Carrasco, reaching base on a single and coming around to score on Hideki Matsui's two-run homer. In the fifth inning, Jeter doubled to right-center and scored on Damon's single.
"Jeet has that ability," Girardi said. "There's times he's aggressive in the counts, and there's times he can work the count. He did a nice job leading off today, he'll do it again tomorrow [against the Reds] and we'll continue to take a look at it."
The Yankees have five more chances to try out the retooled lineup in Florida before they travel to New York for two exhibition games against the Cubs at the new Yankee Stadium.
Asked for a specific reason why Damon makes a good No. 2 hitter, Girardi answered: "The ability to put the ball in that hole -- Johnny's a pull guy and the type of guy that's going to get runners over, because he pulls so much if there's a runner on second."
Damon said that if left-handed-hitting Brett Gardner makes the Opening Day roster as the starting center fielder, moving him down in the lineup also might make sense in disrupting opposing clubs' bullpen planning.
"It also helps out if Gardner ends up being our No. 9 hitter, because teams can't bring in a lefty to take care of him and myself," Damon said. "It probably helps balance out our lineup a little bit better."
Jeter -- who memorably homered to lead off Game 4 of the 2000 World Series -- has batted leadoff in 448 regular-season games, batting .315 with 56 home runs and 215 RBIs and posting a .389 on-base percentage.
The numbers are comparable to his career production as a No. 2 hitter, where he has spent most of his career, batting .316 with a .386 on-base percentage.
Damon has hit second in only 85 games during his career, batting .277 with four homers, 26 RBIs and a .340 on-base percentage. His numbers are stronger as a leadoff hitter, where he has hit .289 with a .355 on-base percentage.
"The good thing about it is that Derek and I both want to win," Damon said. "He understands what he can do from the leadoff spot, and they like what they see from me in the two-hole. Hopefully that can translate into the same kind of stuff that I'd do during the season."
Damon said that he had no issue with Girardi tinkering with the lineup late in camp.
"I think how this camp's been going, everyone is going to do whatever Joe wants," Damon said. "He's going to end up being a great manager here. Sometimes, you have to make changes to see if it actually could make the team better. We'll try this out."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.