By Sweeny Murti
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I only had to watch Mike Trout for one game Monday night to know what the starting center fielder in the All-Star Game should look like. “Holy wow” is all I can say after watching that spectacular show.
But the other center fielder in the game last night is having a terrific season of his own. And Brett Gardner is playing like a guy who deserves to be in Cincinnati next month, too.
Gardner is on some tear right now. In the past 11 games, Gardner is batting .500 (25-for-50) to hike his season batting average over 40 points (from .262 to .305). He is among the league leaders in runs, doubles and stolen bases.
“Just trying to keep it going for as long as we can,” Gardner said, trying to deflect the attention. “Main thing for me is winning games.”
At 31 years old, the former walk-on at the College of Charleston would have to be thrilled if he made his first All-Star team. But he’s not screaming from the rooftops or pushing a social media campaign to get it done. Gardner has done his talking on the field.
“(The All-Star Game) is not something I’ve put any time or thought into,” Gardner said. “Some people have mentioned it to me the last few days. I think that if I’m one of the guys that deserves to go I’d like to be a part of it, but if there’s other guys that deserve to go ahead of me then I think they should go represent the American League.”
To know the competitor Gardner is, you have to think he would be thrilled to be rewarded with an All-Star selection. And it would mean a lot to the Yankees. Gardner was a third-round draft pick in 2005, reached the majors in 2008, and is currently the longest-tenured homegrown Yankee.
There have been only four position players drafted by the Yankees to be named All-Stars representing the franchise: Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Monument Park Yankees, all of them.
If Gardner were to join that group he would be the most surprising one because of how much he has elevated his game since he broke in seven years ago. Gardner is no longer just a slap-hitter with speed. He is a hitter with a plan and the ability to do so much more at the plate.
“I think the biggest thing for me was just looking to use the whole field. Going back to my days in college … I was focused on hitting the ball the other way and not really worrying about pitches on the inside half of the plate, and now I’m just trying to be in a better position to hit and be a little bit more aggressive and just use the whole field and the whole plate,” he said. “For a while guys pitched me in a lot to try and get me out and now — I’m not a home run hitter but if guys come (inside) I can at least be in a position where I can try and hit a ball hard.”
Gardner never had more than 34 extra-base hits in any professional season before 2013. He totaled 101 extra-base hits in 2013 and ’14, and already has 33 this season, as many as Mark Teixeira and one more than Miguel Cabrera.
Jacoby Ellsbury was the Yankees’ best player before getting injured last month. As he gets set to return, it is Gardner who should represent the Yankees at the 2015 All-Star Game.
Follow Sweeny Murti on Twitter: @YankeesWFAN