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Brett Gardner leads off; Derek Jeter 2nd

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Brett Gardner replaced Derek Jeter as the Yankees' leadoff hitter for Friday's 2-1 loss against the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeter was dropped to second in the order, an arrangement that could continue in the future, especially against right-handed starting pitchers.

"You might (see it again)," manager Joe Girardi said before the game when asked if the Gardner/Jeter 1-2 combination could stick. "I've thought about it. I think about it. I've thought about the pieces we have every day. I could hit Gardy first, Jeet second, (Curtis Granderson) third. There's some things I could do."

With Granderson, the team's leading home run hitter and RBI producer with 26 and 70, given the night off, and righty James Shields going for Tampa, Girardi chose to go back to a lineup configuration he used in nine of the first 11 games of this season, though not since April 14.

Part of his decision was influenced, no doubt, by the absence of Granderson, who did appear as a pinch hitter for Chris Dickerson in the seventh inning Thursday, going 0-for-2 and playing the last three innings in center field.

Granderson, the most potent bat in the Yankees lineup and Girardi's customary No. 2 hitter, was out of the starting lineup after a rough Wednesday night.

Granderson fouled a ball off his right calf in the third inning, ran full-speed into the center-field fence to make a key catch on Evan Longoria in the fifth, and got drilled between the shoulder blades by a 95 mph David Price fastball in the eighth inning. Although Granderson insisted he was fine, Girardi chose to give his slugging center fielder the first part of the night off.

And part of the lineup shakeup was influenced by the respective production of Jeter and Gardner, especially in the seven games since the Yankees returned to action following the All-Star break.

In those seven games, Jeter has gone 5-for-26 (.192) with an on-base percentage of .222. over the same period, Gardner has hit .560 (14-for-26), his on-base percentage is .621, and he has stolen six bases.

And overall, Gardner's numbers -- .291 average, .372 OBP, 30 stolen bases, including 16 in a row -- are more in line with what Girardi wants from a leadoff hitter than Jeter's .263, .322 and nine stolen bases.

"The great thing about Gardy is that he's been outstanding at the bottom of the order creating runs all by himself," Girardi said. "Sometimes, in the beginning of the order, guys do it too. But Gardy's a guy who can create a whole lot of runs by himself."

The absence of Alex Rodriguez, on the disabled list following surgery on his right knee on July 14, has made it easier for Girardi to shift the normal position of some of the hitters in his lineup. Robinson Cano has hit cleanup, but Girardi hinted that Mark Teixeira, struggling at .242 despite having 25 home runs and 67 RBI, might move from third, where he has hit in virtually every game of his Yankees career.

A possible future Yankees lineup could see Granderson hitting third, Cano fourth until A-Rod returns, and Teixeira fifth. After Rodriguez returns -- he had the stitches removed from his knee Thursday but is expected to need at least another month of rehab -- Teixeira could eventually move down to sixth, a prospect Girardi refused to directly address.

"Tex has taken his fair share of walks and gotten on base, that's the one thing that Tex does," Girardi said. "People look at average a lot, but we're going to look at on-base percentage too. I don't know what I'm going to do."

The first thing he has done is return Gardner to where he began the season, at the top of his lineup, and moved Jeter back to where has batted more than 5,900 times in his career, more than any other lineup spot.

"I'm not a big proponent of changing the lineup too much," Girardi said. "I think guys like the consistency of knowing where they're going to hit every day."

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.