Q&A with Brett Gardner

We sat down with Staten Island outfielder Brett Gardner for a Q&A session to talk about his 2005 season, why he hits lefties so well, whether or not hitting for power is something he's trying to do, which Yankees' prospects from his Staten Island team impressed him the most, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: What did you think your first season? How do you think you did?

Brett Gardner: It went pretty well. Being up in Staten Island all summer, there was no better team, set of coaches, or players anywhere. Coming from college, I wasn't expecting to have the kind of team chemistry we had in Staten Island. I learned a good bit of stuff there and now I'm just anxious to get started this year.

PinstripesPlus: You mentioned being anxious. What have you been doing this offseason to get ready for 2006?

Gardner: Well, I basically took a month after Instructs were done so I could get some rest after a long year. Since then, I've been lifting real hard four to five days a week. I'm trying to get stronger while maintaining my flexibility and remaining healthy for the whole year. Staying healthy is key.

PinstripesPlus: I guess one of the big stories heading into the new minor league season is what are the Yankees going to do with you, Austin Jackson, and Tim Battle? It is a good problem to have, having three excellent center fielders, but all three are pretty close level-wise. How do you see this race shaking out?

Gardner: Well those other two guys you mentioned are great ballplayers and great center fielders. I really don't know what to expect to be honest. I think it is all going to depend on Spring Training. I think all three of us have a lot of talent and a ton of potential. I'm just getting my work down here [in Tampa] early and work as hard as I can. I really don't see anybody jumping ahead of the other guy so something is going to have be done.

PinstripesPlus: One of the more eye-popping numbers among your splits was your greater success against left-handed pitching. You even had more home runs against lefties than righties in a lot less at-bats. Have you always been this good against left-handed pitching or was your success against them in Staten Island more of a fluke?

Gardner: Earlier in my college career, I struggled against lefties. I worked really hard on improving that area of my game. Right-handed pitchers bust me up on the inside part of the plate and then work me down and away. Those 2-seamers from the righties are tough to hit. I've worked hard facing lefties and when they make a mistake pitch, I realize I need to be extra aggressive. I still have a little bit of work to do against them [left-handed pitchers].

PinstripesPlus: You hit for a fair number of home runs in Staten Island last year and you mentioned earlier that you're trying to get stronger. Are you trying to bulk up to hit a few more home runs?

Gardner: Well, I'm not really into hitting home runs. That's not my game. I'm more of a small-ball player. As far as home run numbers, I'd rather have more triples than home runs. Maybe I could hit 20-25 home runs in a year, but that's not my game. I don't think the Yankees need a leadoff hitter that hits that many home runs. If I could hit 10-15 home runs and be a great small-ball player, that would be great. When I mentioned about getting stronger, it wasn't to hit more home runs. I'm just trying to become a better overall hitter.

PinstripesPlus: You're one of the best bunters I've ever seen. You had quite a few bunts for base hits this past year. Is that something you've been working on or is more of something that comes naturally for you?

Gardner: Well it doesn't come naturally. I've been working on my bunting, especially for base hits, over the years and it was something that really helped me later in the season in Staten Island. While some think I'm really good at bunting, it is something I want to really improve more. I want to improve my bunting and stealing bases. I want to become more consistent using the bunt for base hits because I think I can use that as one of my main tools to get hits. I appreciate it [the comment on his bunting], but I'm still not as good as I want to be.

PinstripesPlus: What is the area of your game that you want to improve the most?

Gardner: Of course, anybody wants to get better at hitting. And I feel like I can make more offensive improvements to my game. But I still have to say I'd like to improve my bunting more. I want to be more confident with it and more aggressive with it.

PinstripesPlus: You're easily one of the fastest players in the farm system, but it took you a while to get going with the stolen bases in Staten Island. You seem too fast not to steal more bases. Would you agree with that?

Gardner: I've always hated to get thrown out attempting to steal a base. But I've been talking with some of the older guys here and they keep telling me that when I get on base, I should be running. I do need to more aggressive with that [stealing bases]. I'd like to work on my jumps off first and second base, even getting a better jump out of the batter's box, and get more confident with stealing bases. And I am getting more confident. I'm going to be stealing a lot, a lot more bases, starting this year.

PinstripesPlus: Going back to the center field dilemma, would you be willing to move to another spot in the outfield if the Yankees asked you in order to get all of you some more playing time?

Gardner: Well, I played left field the first two years of college. I would never want to play there, but if it gets me to the Majors, I'd do it. I see myself as more of a center fielder. I feel like that is my position. If I get into centerfield, that's where I can use the most of my abilities. I'm used to playing there. Hopefully I'll stay there until the end of my career.

PinstripesPlus: Who would win in a race between you, Tim Battle, and Justin Christian?

Gardner: We actually raced down at Instructs, at least, Battle and I did. Justin didn't want to race so he sat out. We ran the 40-yard dash and I beat Battle. I ran something like 4.38 and he ran a 4.42 or a 4.43. I got out of the box a little quicker but the people watching told me that he was gaining on me. So maybe if it was a 60-yard dash, it would have been a tie or something.

PinstripesPlus: What are your goals heading into the 2006 season?

Gardner: I just want to be on a winning team. I wouldn't have traded my experience in Staten Island last year for anything. As far as individual goals, I want to be a more complete player. I feel like it was a learning experience for me last year and I think I could have done a lot better, especially considering I got off to a slow start. I'd like to hit over .300 and have an on-base percentage over .400. I also want to steal 50 bases or more. But most of all, hopefully I can stay healthy all season.

PinstripesPlus: Among your Staten Island teammates, which positional player do you think has the highest upside?

Gardner: Eduardo Nunez. I mean, the kid is 18-years old. I can't even imagine being close to that type of player four years ago. He's a real good player with great range, a strong arm, and he's a switch-hitter with good power. He's got a lot of things to work on, but the sky is the limit for him. I think Kyle Larsen and Jonathan Poterson are also very impressive. With Larsen, the way he plays defense and can hit the ball is very impressive. If he continues to work hard, he'll be great too. And Poterson struggled a little bit, but he's got the best raw power of anybody at that age that I've ever seen.

PinstripesPlus: Among the pitchers from Staten Island, which do you think has the highest upside?

Gardner: I'm going to pick one reliever and one starter. Josh Schmidt or Cory Stuart. I think you can't go wrong with either one, but I'll pick Schmidt because he's a year or two younger. The guy doesn't care. He's real confident and he just goes out there and gets guys out. He's got a couple of good pitches and I'd know I'd hate to hit against either one of them. Among the starters, I'd have to say Garrett Patterson. I mean, he's a lefty who consistently hits the mid-90's with his fastball and there aren't many guys with that tool. I love his potential and I think he could be moving up pretty quickly. There's also David Seccombe too. He doesn't throw too hard, only in the high 80's or low 90's at times. But the guy just knows how to pitch. He's really smart on the mound, like Greg Maddux.

PinstripesPlus: Of all the Staten Island players, either positional or pitcher, which one player do you think is the biggest "sleeper" prospect?

Gardner: Well, again, I'm going to pick two guys, one positional player and one pitcher. Jason Stephens might get credit, but maybe not as much as he deserves. I think as he continues to develop, he'll learn to get more confident in the defense playing behind him and maybe even throw a little harder. He's got a very good curveball and I think he's going to have a long and solid career. Among the positional players, Kyle Anson is a very hard worker. He's an unbelievable defensive third baseman. They're moving him to catcher because they feel that is his best chance to get to the Major Leagues. Personally, I think its a shame. I mean, he may not hit for the great power numbers of a top third baseman, but I can't imagine there's a better defensive third baseman anywhere. I think he's got all the potential in the world.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What did you think your first season? How do you think you did?
\r\n
\r\nBrett Gardner: It went pretty well. Being up in Staten Island all summer, there was no better team, set of coaches, or players anywhere. Coming from college, I wasn't expecting to have the kind of team chemistry we had in Staten Island. I learned a good bit of stuff there and now I'm just anxious to get started this year.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You mentioned being anxious. What have you been doing this offseason to get ready for 2006?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: Well, I basically took a month after Instructs were done so I could get some rest after a long year. Since then, I've been lifting real hard four to five days a week. I'm trying to get stronger while maintaining my flexibility and remaining healthy for the whole year. Staying healthy is key.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: I guess one of the big stories heading into the new minor league season is what are the Yankees going to do with you, Austin Jackson, and Tim Battle? It is a good problem to have, having three excellent center fielders, but all three are pretty close level-wise. How do you see this race shaking out?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: Well those other two guys you mentioned are great ballplayers and great center fielders. I really don't know what to expect to be honest. I think it is all going to depend on Spring Training. I think all three of us have a lot of talent and a ton of potential. I'm just getting my work down here [in Tampa] early and work as hard as I can. I really don't see anybody jumping ahead of the other guy so something is going to have be done.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: One of the more eye-popping numbers among your splits was your greater success against left-handed pitching. You even had more home runs against lefties than righties in a lot less at-bats. Have you always been this good against left-handed pitching or was your success against them in Staten Island more of a fluke?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: Earlier in my college career, I struggled against lefties. I worked really hard on improving that area of my game. Right-handed pitchers bust me up on the inside part of the plate and then work me down and away. Those 2-seamers from the righties are tough to hit. I've worked hard facing lefties and when they make a mistake pitch, I realize I need to be extra aggressive. I still have a little bit of work to do against them [left-handed pitchers].
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You hit for a fair number of home runs in Staten Island last year and you mentioned earlier that you're trying to get stronger. Are you trying to bulk up to hit a few more home runs?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: Well, I'm not really into hitting home runs. That's not my game. I'm more of a small-ball player. As far as home run numbers, I'd rather have more triples than home runs. Maybe I could hit 20-25 home runs in a year, but that's not my game. I don't think the Yankees need a leadoff hitter that hits that many home runs. If I could hit 10-15 home runs and be a great small-ball player, that would be great. When I mentioned about getting stronger, it wasn't to hit more home runs. I'm just trying to become a better overall hitter.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You're one of the best bunters I've ever seen. You had quite a few bunts for base hits this past year. Is that something you've been working on or is more of something that comes naturally for you?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: Well it doesn't come naturally. I've been working on my bunting, especially for base hits, over the years and it was something that really helped me later in the season in Staten Island. While some think I'm really good at bunting, it is something I want to really improve more. I want to improve my bunting and stealing bases. I want to become more consistent using the bunt for base hits because I think I can use that as one of my main tools to get hits. I appreciate it [the comment on his bunting], but I'm still not as good as I want to be.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: What is the area of your game that you want to improve the most?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: Of course, anybody wants to get better at hitting. And I feel like I can make more offensive improvements to my game. But I still have to say I'd like to improve my bunting more. I want to be more confident with it and more aggressive with it.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You're easily one of the fastest players in the farm system, but it took you a while to get going with the stolen bases in Staten Island. You seem too fast not to steal more bases. Would you agree with that?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: I've always hated to get thrown out attempting to steal a base. But I've been talking with some of the older guys here and they keep telling me that when I get on base, I should be running. I do need to more aggressive with that [stealing bases]. I'd like to work on my jumps off first and second base, even getting a better jump out of the batter's box, and get more confident with stealing bases. And I am getting more confident. I'm going to be stealing a lot, a lot more bases, starting this year.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Going back to the center field dilemma, would you be willing to move to another spot in the outfield if the Yankees asked you in order to get all of you some more playing time?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: Well, I played left field the first two years of college. I would never want to play there, but if it gets me to the Majors, I'd do it. I see myself as more of a center fielder. I feel like that is my position. If I get into centerfield, that's where I can use the most of my abilities. I'm used to playing there. Hopefully I'll stay there until the end of my career.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Who would win in a race between you, Tim Battle, and Justin Christian?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: We actually raced down at Instructs, at least, Battle and I did. Justin didn't want to race so he sat out. We ran the 40-yard dash and I beat Battle. I ran something like 4.38 and he ran a 4.42 or a 4.43. I got out of the box a little quicker but the people watching told me that he was gaining on me. So maybe if it was a 60-yard dash, it would have been a tie or something.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: What are your goals heading into the 2006 season?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: I just want to be on a winning team. I wouldn't have traded my experience in Staten Island last year for anything. As far as individual goals, I want to be a more complete player. I feel like it was a learning experience for me last year and I think I could have done a lot better, especially considering I got off to a slow start. I'd like to hit over .300 and have an on-base percentage over .400. I also want to steal 50 bases or more. But most of all, hopefully I can stay healthy all season.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Among your Staten Island teammates, which positional player do you think has the highest upside?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: Eduardo Nunez. I mean, the kid is 18-years old. I can't even imagine being close to that type of player four years ago. He's a real good player with great range, a strong arm, and he's a switch-hitter with good power. He's got a lot of things to work on, but the sky is the limit for him. I think Kyle Larsen and Jonathan Poterson are also very impressive. With Larsen, the way he plays defense and can hit the ball is very impressive. If he continues to work hard, he'll be great too. And Poterson struggled a little bit, but he's got the best raw power of anybody at that age that I've ever seen.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Among the pitchers from Staten Island, which do you think has the highest upside?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: I'm going to pick one reliever and one starter. Josh Schmidt or Cory Stuart. I think you can't go wrong with either one, but I'll pick Schmidt because he's a year or two younger. The guy doesn't care. He's real confident and he just goes out there and gets guys out. He's got a couple of good pitches and I'd know I'd hate to hit against either one of them. Among the starters, I'd have to say Garrett Patterson. I mean, he's a lefty who consistently hits the mid-90's with his fastball and there aren't many guys with that tool. I love his potential and I think he could be moving up pretty quickly. There's also David Seccombe too. He doesn't throw too hard, only in the high 80's or low 90's at times. But the guy just knows how to pitch. He's really smart on the mound, like Greg Maddux.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Of all the Staten Island players, either positional or pitcher, which one player do you think is the biggest \"sleeper\" prospect?
\r\n
\r\nGardner: Well, again, I'm going to pick two guys, one positional player and one pitcher. Jason Stephens might get credit, but maybe not as much as he deserves. I think as he continues to develop, he'll learn to get more confident in the defense playing behind him and maybe even throw a little harder. He's got a very good curveball and I think he's going to have a long and solid career. Among the positional players, Kyle Anson is a very hard worker. He's an unbelievable defensive third baseman. They're moving him to catcher because they feel that is his best chance to get to the Major Leagues. Personally, I think its a shame. I mean, he may not hit for the great power numbers of a top third baseman, but I can't imagine there's a better defensive third baseman anywhere. I think he's got all the potential in the world.
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