MINNEAPOLIS — Had the Yankees been at full strength, Brett Gardner likely wouldn’t have started Monday night’s game against Twins lefty Martin Perez.
That’s because Giancarlo Stanton and Cameron Maybin swing from the right side; Gardner from the opposite side of the plate. However, Stanton and Maybin are on the injured list and if healthy Gardner would have likely been in the lineup for the first of three games against the AL Central-leading Twins at Target Field.
Scratched from Sunday’s game against the Rockies due to a sore left knee that had been bothering Gardner for a while and was aggravated on a diving catch in the ninth inning of Saturday’s win, Gardner wasn’t in Aaron Boone’s lineup Monday. Nor was the manager sure he would have the veteran available Tuesday night.
And while Gardner said the hinge, which underwent an MRI that didn’t show anything but inflammation and didn’t require an injection, was improving, he didn’t know when he would return.
“If not [Tuesday] the next day,’’ Gardner said after the Yankees dropped an 8-6 decision.
Smiling, Gardner added, “I don’t know if you can take [Mike] Tauchman out of the lineup.’’
Tauchman went 3-for-4, scored twice and drove in a run. He has 11 hits in his past 19 at-bats (.579).
According to Boone, Gardner worked indoors Monday and felt there was significant improvement from Sunday. Still, Boone wasn’t sure Gardner would be in Tuesday night’s lineup against right-hander Kyle Gibson.
“Whether he is in there [Tuesday] I am not sure yet,’’ Boone said of Gardner, who is hitting .200 (15-for-75) against lefties and .256 (61-for-238) versus righties.
Gardner was joined on the bench by shortstop Didi Gregorius, who didn’t start for the second time in four games as Boone attempts to keep his players rested. It’s likely infielders DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres, who started at second and shortstop, respectively, will get a rest day during this series.
“I told him [Sunday night]. He isn’t happy,’’ Boone said of Gregorius, who entered the game as a pinch runner for Edwin Encarnacion in the ninth. “Didi wants to play. I understand that. I don’t think he is too happy right now.’’
Since the two of the past four games Gregorius wasn’t in the starting lineup were against lefty starters, Boone was asked how much of a factor that played into the decision.
“This one makes the most sense,’’ said Boone, who explained he isn’t resting Gregorius simply because the other team is starting a lefty even though Gregorius was hitting .172 (5-for-29) against them and .277 (26-for-94) versus right-handers. “If we get a run of lefties Didi is going to play.’’
Boone cited the sweltering heat at Yankee Stadium this past weekend and last week’s doubleheader against the Rays as reasons for resting players.
As for Gardner, who turns 36 late next month, Boone believes Maybin’s eventual return will allow him to keep Gardner fresh. Gardner has participated in a team-high 92 of the 99 games played by the Yankees and had started 84 (37 in left field; 47 in center).
“I am certainly mindful of it,’’ Boone said of the possibility of Gardner wearing down. “Next week potentially we will have Cameron Maybin back in the mix as a right-handed hitter and give us the opportunity to spell Gardy at different times.’’
Boone can often find something positive in what can be looked at as a negative situation and Gardner’s knee problem isn’t any different.
“One of the things with this where he banged up his knee a little bit it does give him a few day to rest his body,’’ Boone said of Gardner, who is hitting .243 with 15 homers and 41 RBIs. “It is something I am mindful of and we will do what we have to do.’’