Struggling Gardner out of leadoff spot

For the first time in 2011, Brett Gardner is out of the leadoff spot against a right-handed starter.

The struggling left fielder is hitting ninth on Sunday night against Texas righty Alexi Ogando on Sunday night. Derek Jeter will bat leadoff with Curtis Granderson hitting second.

“Hopefully get things going tonight,” Gardner said. “It’s not secret I haven’t gotten off to a great start and maybe I need to start getting on base for these guys to drive me in.”

Joe Girardi said he moved Gardner to the nine hole in an effort to get him going.

“It’s a place that he hit all year for the most part last year and had some success,” Girardi said. “With that, I’m not saying it’s a long term thing; we’re just trying to get him going.”

Gardner is hitting .146 with a .222 on-base percentage. He has 13 strikeouts in 41 at-bats. He’s hitting .135 in 37 at-bats as a leadoff hitter and is 1-for-4 in other spots in the lineup.

He said he does not feel any pressure batting at the top of the lineup. In 2010, Gardner hit .290 in 115 at-bats in the leadoff spot last season, .243 in 181 at-bats hitting ninth and .316 in 98 at-bats hitting eighth.

“I don’t try to put any extra pressure on myself whether I’m hitting one or two or eight or nine or whatever,” Gardner said. “It’s all the same for me. My job is to get on base, and plain and simple the last week, week and a half, I haven’t been doing that. It’s something I need to start doing.”

Gardner has come off the bench the last two games against Texas’ left-handed starters. Andruw Jones replaced him in left field on Friday and Saturday, with Gardner later entering as a defensive replacement.

He said on Saturday that the two days off may help him think through his struggles at the plate. He’s done some extra work on his swing and realized that he wasn’t using his lower half in some of his swings and didn’t always give his “a-swing” during at-bats.

While Gardner admits it’s frustrating to be in a slump, he’s not dwelling on it.

“Today’s a new day and the main thing is the team’s been winning,” Gardner said. “We’ve been playing good baseball. It’s a lot easier to go through personal struggles when the team’s still playing well.”

Girardi is hopeful that Gardner will return to the leadoff spot against right-handers sometime soon.

“If we get him going, then we can move him back up again,” Girardi said.