Why is Austin Kearns on the Yankees' roster?
If ever there was a game in which to give Austin Kearns a start, today's Game 5 of the ALCS was the one. The New York Yankees are down a bat (thanks to the hamstring injury suffered by Mark Teixeira, who is done for the season). They are facing a left-handed starter (C.J. Wilson of the Texas Rangers). And they have a number of hitters (starting with Lance Berkman and Curtis Granderson) who are basically useless against lefties. (Berkman this season against lefties: .171/.261/.517. Granderson this season against lefties: .234/.292/.354.)
But when the Yankees made out their lineup today for Game 5, it had both Berkman and Granderson in there, with Kearns once again on the bench. The Yankees have played seven games so far this postseason, and Kearns has yet to get in a game, despite being on their roster for both rounds. The Yankees frequently started Kearns against lefties down the stretch this season, but he has been the forgotten Yankee this postseason.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi explained Kearns's absence today thusly: With Teixeira out, he needed Berkman at first base. The only other option would have been right fielder Nick Swisher moving to first (as the Yankees did after Teixeira's injury Tuesday night), but Swisher has played there sparingly in recent seasons. As for Granderson, Girardi said he liked his at-bats against Wilson in Game 1.
Could there be a pinch-hit opportunity for Kearns? You would think so, but based on Girardi's managing on Tuesday night, maybe not. He allowed Berkman -- a switch-hitter whose performance from the right side has diminished considerably in recent years -- to bat against lefties in both the sixth and eighth innings. In the latter instance, he represented the tying run, with the bases loaded in a 7-3 game. Both times, Berkman grounded out.
What is Kearns's purpose if not to bat there, or if not to start today? I couldn't tell you.
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