TAMPA — When the lineup cards are exchanged for real in exactly two weeks, Yankees manager Joe Girardi likely will trot out the same order he used Wednesday night.
“It’s the first time we’ve done it, so it is nice,” Girardi said of having all nine regulars in the same Grapefruit League lineup. “There’s a good chance we’ll do it (tonight), too, if everything goes OK.”
And chances are that Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander will oppose the same order on opening day at Yankee Stadium on March 31.
There were no upsets in the order Girardi sent up against Orioles right-hander Jim Johnson at Steinbrenner Field.
Derek Jeter was in the leadoff spot, with Nick Swisher second. The heart of the order remains Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano, followed by Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner.
Martin, the new catcher, is the only player who was not in Girardi’s opening day lineup last year. Nick Johnson started at designated hitter that day at Baltimore, a role that now belongs to Posada.
Girardi always polls his coaches for their lineup opinions, and he left room for improvisation over these final two weeks of spring training. “It’s just some different ideas that guys have thrown out … just to see how it looks,” Girardi said, though his mind mostly is made up.
After all, it’s virtually the same lineup that led the majors in runs scored last season. And Jeter hasn’t given the Yanks much reason to replace him with Gardner atop the order.
“He’s getting more comfortable with what he’s doing. He looks good up there,” hitting coach Kevin Long said of Jeter, whose batting alterations created an early buzz in camp.
At Long’s suggestion, Jeter — who batted a career low .270 last year — cut down his front-foot stride.
“We haven’t had many discussions as of late, which means that things are falling into place,” Long said. “I think we’re on track.”
Jeter entered Wednesday night’s game batting .333 (9-for-27) this spring. A-Rod was leading the team at .440 (11-for-25).
“Up to this point, I’ve been happy with the way guys are swinging the bats,” Long said. “Looking at averages doesn’t interest me as much as guys feeling good, staying healthy and getting ready.”
Girardi lamented that his club hadn’t seen many lefty starters this spring, “and our division’s full of them.” But that’s where Andruw Jones comes in.
“We signed him to play against lefties,” Girardi said of Jones, who could cobble together 400 at-bats. “(He) does give us a chance to rest our outfielders every once in a while.”
Lefty-hitting Eric Chavez has played in just 64 games over the past three seasons due to various injuries, but he’s healthy and hitting .370 this spring. Just 33, the slugging six-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman seems assured of making the club as a backup corner infielder.
“Our bench, I think, is stronger,” Long said. “We’ve got some good stuff going on with our offense.”
Though Long believes it’s not unreasonable for Cano to hit 40 homers, the heart of the order isn’t expected to be rearranged.
Long has worked with Teixeira to prevent his usual slow starts, and the switch-hitting first baseman had doubles in his first two at-bats Wednesday to raise his spring average to .407.
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