ST. PETERSBURG -- Curtis Granderson acknowledges that he probably lost two hits in Friday's 7-6 Opening Day loss because the Rays employed a defensive shift on him, but the Yankees' center fielder cannot change his approach.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon uses the shift more than any other American League skipper, according to New York manager Joe Girardi, so it wasn't a surprise to Granderson when he stepped in and saw the shortstop playing to the right side of second base.
"You've got to go up there and stick with your same approach and plan," Granderson said. "If you get a pitch to go the other way, you do it. If not, you've got to go ahead and try to hit it hard."
Granderson said that he also saw the Blue Jays, Orioles and White Sox use similar shifts against him from time to time. It makes sense; against right-handed pitching in 2011, 56 percent of the balls Granderson put in play went to the right side, including 27 percent to the outfield, according to STATS, Inc.
That's an uptick over Granderson's previous Yankees years; in 2010, he pulled 45 percent of balls against righties, and in '09, he pulled 54 percent of the balls he put in play. Granderson says he realizes he's more of a pull hitter now than he was in the Minors.
"It's not that I'm going up there trying to pull," Granderson said. "The only time that I ever am is if there's a runner at second base with less than two outs, just because of the situation.
"There's just times where I just happen to get out there and pull the ball, but it's not that I'm trying. [Hitting coach] Kevin Long and myself aren't up there with the approach of trying to pull it -- it just ends up happening from time to time."
Granderson said that he seems to see the shift most against righties who throw a lot of changeups, like Tampa Bay's James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson, the latter of whom will start Sunday's series finale.
Girardi plans frequent half-days for veterans
ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi is serious about making sure that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are well rested early in the schedule, particularly on artificial turf.
Jeter was in New York's lineup as the designated hitter on Saturday at Tropicana Field for the second game of the regular season, and Girardi said that he is considering giving Rodriguez a full day off Sunday.
Eduardo Nunez took over at shortstop for Jeter on Saturday, and Girardi said that Eric Chavez could get his first start of the year on Sunday at third base.
"Against lefties, I'm probably going to DH Alex or Jeet a substantial amount of time," Girardi said. "This turf can be rough on these guys, especially early on in the season. It's a way to get Nuney [playing] before a month, like last year, as well."
Girardi said that the DH assignment has nothing to do with Jeter's left calf, which the veteran rested for a period during Spring Training. Even though Jeter and Rodriguez play on the infield dirt, Girardi said there is concrete underneath that makes it more taxing than actual soil.
"It is early, and I think as the season goes on, they'll get more and more built up," Girardi said. "Maybe you won't have to do it quite as often, but we do have to remember it's the first series of the year and we're on Astroturf, which I think is harder on a person's body than if you're playing on a natural surface. I'm just trying to be smart about it."
Swisher suited for two-hole against lefties
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees' batting order against Rays southpaw David Price on Saturday could be a showcase of their lineup against left-handed pitching this season, as Nick Swisher replaced Curtis Granderson in the No. 2 spot.
"It's something we're going to consider," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's something we've kind of thought about. You don't ever say [you'll keep it] forever, because a lot of it probably depends on how you perform. It makes sense to us."
Granderson had a productive season last year against left-handed pitching, but Girardi is offering a nod to Swisher's high on-base percentage against southpaws.
"Swish has had so much success, [if] you look over the last two years, against left-handers getting on base," Girardi said. "Grandy had a great year off lefties as well, but Swish has probably been on base against lefties more than any player we have, so I thought about flip-flopping them.
Over the previous two seasons, Swisher has posted a .428 on-base percentage against lefties, batting .310 (105-for-339) with 10 homers and 37 RBIs. For comparison purposes, Granderson had a .347 on-base percentage last year against lefties, slugging 16 homers and batting .272.
"Grandy has been extremely productive against left-handers, so [we could] get some guys on, and maybe Grandy pops one," Girardi said.
Girardi said that he still expects the left-handed-hitting Brett Gardner -- who was benched on Saturday, with Andruw Jones playing left field -- to play some games against left-handed pitching.
Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda, out with right rotator cuff tendinitis, will play long toss twice in the next three days. He remains unlikely to pitch at the big league level in April.
Yankees catcher Chris Stewart, acquired from the Giants this week for right-hander George Kontos, could make his first start of the year on Sunday against the Rays or Monday against the Orioles, Girardi said. He has caught bullpen sessions for Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes since arriving.
Raul Ibanez is the fourth Yankees player whose last name begins with "I" to appear in a game. The others were Hideki Irabu (1997-99), Pete Incaviglia ('97) and Kei Igawa (2007-08).
On this date in 1977, Reggie Jackson batted fifth and went 2-for-4 in his Yankees debut. Jimmy Wynn homered in his first Yankees at-bat as the Bombers beat the Brewers, 3-0, behind seven scoreless innings from Catfish Hunter. On this date in 1992, Roberto Kelly drove in three runs as the Yankees toppled Roger Clemens and the Red Sox, 4-3, in the season opener.