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New York Yankees notes: Long never rests

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Came across a very encouraging story at MLB.com Thursday about the work already being done to prepare for the upcoming season by New York Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long.

While the rest of baseball clings to its last weeks of Hot Stove hibernation, Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has already rolled into the new season, logging frequent-flyer miles to put in batting cage hours with several players.

Long is spending this week overseeing Alex Rodriguez's first swings of 2010 and has already spent a good chunk of the winter helping Nick Swisher. A visit with Curtis Granderson is also ahead, as Long sacrifices his down time in the hopes that New York's offense will be a dominant force as they defend the World Series title.

"Last year, I set out to bring guys together and get a real pulse of guys to see where they were," Long said. "I wanted to see if we could make this a more team-oriented group. [Manager] Joe Girardi did a terrific job, obviously, and it seemed like those efforts were well-spent. I don't have a problem doing it if guys come together. The team chemistry that I saw last year was a lot of fun."

I think all Yankee fans hope Long is able to do for Granderson what he did for Robinson Cano last off-season, getting Cano back on track after a disappointing 2008.

Just don't anybody tell him that baseball coaches don't get overtime.

When Yankee GM Brian Cashman talks about Brett Gardner being the regular left fielder many Yankee fans think he is bluffing. The same way he was bluffing by saying Bubba Crosby would be the center fielder in 2005. We know, of course, that Cashman ended up signing Johnny Damon. Well, River Avenue Blues looks at Crosby and Gardner and says there really is no comparison.

Crosby was a 29-year-old with no value. He had put up a combined -0.7 WAR in his first two seasons in the Bronx and had shown some average defense. He had no real Minor League pedigree and wasn’t a prospect.

Brett Gardner is a different story. Throughout the minors, he’s shown the ability to get on base, and while he hasn’t flashed much power, we can’t just ignore a .389 Minor League OBP. Last season, he hit a respectable .270/.345/.379 with 26 stolen bases in 31 attempts. He has a career WAR of 3.2 and has been an above-average defender in center and left in his young playing career. On the cusp of his age 26 season, he should improve and be at least adequate in 2010.

In the end, we won’t know until after the fact if Gardner will amount to much. He may just be a more valuable fourth outfielder/pinch runner extraordinaire. For now, he’s the Yankee left fielder, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

That is a stance I agree with. Especially if the Yankees have a solid right-handed hitting option for left field so Gardner does not have to play against tough left-handers.

We have talked about the left field option again and again, but Chad Jennings of LoHud offered a list of possibilities last night that included a few intriguing names I really had not considered.

FINAL NOTE: I was invited to appear on The Sports Docket to talk Yankees Thursday night. If you want to give the show a listen, check out the podcast.