OAKLAND -- Brett Gardner was deservedly named the AL Player of the Week last week, and his stats in the seven games were truly remarkable: 13-for-25 (.520), five doubles, a home run, six RBI, five runs scored and an on-base percentage of .556. Not coincidentally, the Yankees won six of those seven games with their leadoff hitter on a tear.
But there is also one statistic from Gardner's terrific week that is remarkable in another respect: Over that stretch, he stole just one base, and not until the last game, Sunday's 2-1 win over the Mariners in Seattle.
For a player whose entire game once seemed predicated on speed, it was an indication of how far Gardner's offensive game has developed. Then again, it might also be an indication that while Gardner has certainly gained confidence in his abilities at the plate, he may be lacking a little on the basepaths.
"I know that’s a big part of my game and I know I want to get into scoring position for [Robinson Cano]," he said. "But early in the season I got thrown out with Robbie at the plate and that's not something that I want to do."
As a result, Gardner has taken off just 15 times this season, and while he leads the team in steals with 10, he has also been thrown out five times. The theory was that Gardner, the Yankees' everyday leadoff hitter with Derek Jeter on the DL, has been reluctant to run with Cano hitting behind him, fearful that if successful, he might cause the other team to walk Cano, taking the bat out of the hands of the Yankees' best hitter.
Gardner says that is not that case, that in fact his success at the plate this season has in fact limited the number of opportunities he has had to run.
"I've had a few more extra-base hits year," he said. "So that takes away some of my opportunities to run."
Indeed, Gardner has had 14 doubles, four triples and six home runs, one shy of his career high for a season, and his slugging percentage of .453 trails only Cano, Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay, among Yankees regulars.
Gardner said he and Cano have discussed whether he should take off with Cano at the plate, and said that Cano has endorsed him trying to steal as often as possible.
"I’m not using him hitting behind me as an excuse for not running more, that’s for sure. He wants me to run whenever I can run," Gardner said. "And just because I’m over there at first base, even if I'm not running, it’s changing the way he’s getting pitched. He should be getting more fastballs to hit."
Gardner's strong start this season is especially rewarding considering he missed virtually all of last season with an elbow injury that eventually required surgery, going down after just nine games of the season and not returning until late September.
"Last year was pretty much a wasted year for me," he said. "But my elbow has felt great the whole year. I was a little concerned about that just because last year I didn't get many at-bats with it. I always wondered in the offseason how it was going to feel but it’s felt great. I'm not all that much concerned with my results so much as being able to stay healthy and stay on the field and so far, I been healthy so I can’t complain."