Yesterday, the Yankees' new hitting coach, Alan Cockrell, revealed that Brett Gardner played through a wrist injury for most of the season. Gardner got off to a blazing hot start in April and put together one of the best first half performance's of his career. He was even selected to be a member of the All-Star team. However, his numbers took a huge nose dive in the second half of the season. Could the wrist injury be to blame for his poor second half?
According to Cockrell, Gardner's wrist injury occurred early in the season after he was hit by a pitch. Gardner was hit by a pitch on April 13th by Wei-Yin Chen, during the first inning of a game against the Orioles. He did not leave the game right away, but Stephen Drew did come in as a pinch hitter for Gardner during the seventh inning, when Drew notably hit a grand slam. Gardner had an X-ray on his wrist, and that came back negative, but Gardner missed the remainder of the series and did not play again until April 17th when he came in as a pinch runner. On the 18th, the Yankees announced that Gardner had an MRI on his right wrist while the team was in Tampa and that it confirmed that Gardner had a bone bruise. He sat out another game on April 22nd, but he never went on the disabled list, and there weren't any other indications that he was still experiencing wrist pain throughout the season. That could be because Gardner received cortisone injections in his wrist all year long.
Historically, Gardner has had a tendency to hit better in the first half than the second half throughout his career, but the difference between the two was more extreme this year. After hitting .302/.377/.484 with 10 home runs in the first half, Gardner hit just .206/.300/.292 with six home runs in the second. Gardner played at least 100 games in six of his past seven seasons with the Yankees (he missed most of 2012 with an elbow injury), and he hit worse in the second half more often than not.
It might seem strange that Gardner's second half could be attributed to a wrist injury that he sustained in April, but Cockrell indicated that Gardner received the maximum amount of cortisone injections. Typically, athletes are only allowed to get three or four cortisone injections per year. If Gardner received as many as the Yankees would let him have, it makes sense that his performance would decline when the cortisone wore off if he was still experiencing pain in his wrist. A healthy wrist is kind of important when it comes to batting and fielding, just ask Mark Teixeira. Gardner's injury could also be part of the reason that he only stole six bases in the second half, compared to 15 in the first half, if it bothered him while sliding. Whatever the reason for his decline in performance, here's hoping that he shows up healthy and in All-Star form when spring training rolls around.