Johnny Damon's most recent ouchie, a tender right groin, doesn't appear to be of major concern to the Yankees, but his removal from last night's game exposed a major flaw in the Yankees current roster construction. With Bernie Williams DHing for Jason Giambi, who was hit hard in the right arm with a pitch in Tuesday's game, Joe Torre chose to move Bobby Abreu into center, Craig Wilson into right, and insert Andy Phillips at first base in Damon's spot. Never mind that Melky Cabrera played center field in the minors earlier this year and that Abreu had played just 1/3 of an inning in center since 2002 when he made 18 of his 20 major league appearances there. After Bernie's at-bat in the top of the eighth, Torre moved Abreu back to right and gave up the DH to move Bernie and his 72 Rate (!) into center and put the pitcher in Wilson's spot in the order.
That cinched it. If Joe is that dead set on not returning Melky Cabrera to the scene of his defensive crimes of a year ago (which will have to change sooner rather than later), the Yankees need to bring Aaron Guiel back up from Columbus. Guiel played 24 games in center field for the Royals last year and made two appearances for them there earlier this season. He posted a 95 rate in those 24 games in 2005 and is dead average for his career in the middle pasture. What's more, he's the lefty bat this team desperately needs off the bench. Bernie Williams is 0 for 11 as a pinch-hitter this season and is still hitting just .250/.284/.380 against righties. Guiel, meanwhile, is 1 for 5 as a pinch-hitter (impossibly small samples, I know, but zero hits are hard to argue for), and is hitting .242/.356/.532 against righties.
As for Andy Phillips (brace yourselves, folks, I'm finally fessing up), he has become redundant in the wake of the Craig Wilson acquisition. As I said at the time of the trade, "a career .268/.360/.486 hitter, Wilson is exactly the hitter I had hoped Andy Phillips would be at the plate given a proper opportunity . . . is just four months Phillips' senior and has put up those numbers over 2,133 career major league plate appearances." Both players give the team added defensive flexibility (Andy at second and third, Wilson in the outfield corners and behind the plate), but Torre seems more willing to move Wilson around. What's more, Andy has had just five at-bats since the acquisition of Wilson, three of them coming last night when Guiel would have been a better option. I may have been Andy Phillips' biggest fan for the past couple of years, but he no longer fits on this roster. The Yankees need to replace him with Aaron Guiel, and they need to do it now.
Since we're on the topic of center fielders, I thought now would be a good time to run a chart I had promised to run sometime this summer back in the offseason when we were all debating exactly how the Yankees should fill their center field vacancy. I post this without comment, save for what I've written in the notes column.