Girardi channeling La Russa and Stengel

Joe Girardi is doing his best Tony La Russa/Casey Stengel impression tonight. Getty Images

DENVER -- Joe Girardi, of course, is not the first manager to bat his pitcher eighth in the lineup; Tony La Russa did it on a regular basis in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

He is not even the first Yankees manager to do it; Casey Stengel did it twice with Don Larsen in the 1957 season.

But this is the first time Girardi has ever done it, either with the Yankees or the Florida Marlins, and the timing is interesting, to say the least, considering how feeble the Yankees' batting order has looked lately.

Austin Romine

Austin Romine

#53 C
New York Yankees

2013 STATS

  • GM3
  • HR0

  • RBI0

  • R0

  • OBP.250

  • AVG.000

So for tonight's game against the Rockies, Girardi decided to bat his starting pitcher, David Phelps, eighth and his catcher, Austin Romine, ninth.

It is especially interesting that Girardi chose to do it tonight, with a right-handed starter (Juan Nicasio) going for the Rockies and the Yankees fielding their much stronger left-handed-hitting lineup, minus DH Travis Hafner because the game is being played in a National League park.

Here are the manager's reasons for the move: The Rockies have two lefties (Rex Brothers and Josh Outman) in their bullpen, and the players Girardi is likely to use as pinch hitters for the pitcher tonight, Hafner and Brennan Boesch, are lefties. So by sandwiching the right-handed-hitting Chris Nelson and Romine before and after the pitcher's spot, Girardi avoids the dreaded "stacking of lefties" at the bottom of his lineup.

His second reason is that after the Yankees flip their lineup once, Robinson Cano, who is hitting second, becomes in essence a No. 3 hitter since two legitimate hitters, Romine and Brett Gardner, will precede him.

"It’s not something that I just did off the cuff," Girardi said. "I’ve had discussions with Tony La Russa, I’ve talked to our people about it, and I just thought it made sense tonight."

Girardi said he spoke to La Russa, for whom he played in his final big league season in 2003, during his time as a broadcaster between managerial gigs.

"I found it intriguing, and it made a lot of sense when he explained it to me," Girardi said. "He did it so there were a bunch of hitters in front of Albert [Pujols], and I'm trying to put more hitters in front of Robbie Cano, and also get him as many at-bats as possible."

Girardi said he had discussed the move with Romine, being careful to explain to the young catcher that batting him last was not a reflection of the manager's opinion of his hitting abilities.

"I said it has nothing to do with you but with the strategy of the game," Girardi said. "So he was OK with it."

Considering how punchless the Yankees looked in Tuesday night's 2-0 loss, a little experimentation certainly couldn't hurt.

QUESTION: Do you agree with Girardi's reasoning? Or do you view this as a sign of desperation on the manager's part?