Beat-up Gregorius gets needed time off

When Didi Gregorius lifted a soft fly ball to left field in his first at-bat Sunday, I said to the person next to me in the press box, “The shortstop could use a day off.”

There is a good chance that manager Joe Girardi felt the same way. Gregorius ended up taking a 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Yankees’ 4-2 loss to the Rays to continue a slump that has persisted through September. So it was no surprise that he was not in the starting lineup for Monday night’s opener of the three-game, inter-league series against the Dodgers.
“I think it’s just getting beat up over the course of the year,” Girardi said. “Whether it’s the two balls he took off his arm — the hit by pitches, ribs, off his feet, sometimes you get to a point where you just need to shut a guy down for a day or two.”

September is the beat-up month as players who have slogged through the dog days of August try to lick their wounds. For an everyday shortstop such as Gregorius, who has been perhaps the Yankees’ steadiest player, the bumps and bruises can really pile up.

Gregorius’ season heated up big-time in June, a month in which he batted .337. His season batting average remained in the .290s throughout July when he hit .297 overall. He slipped to .268 in August, but that was also his best power month with six home runs and 18 RBI.

Come September, Didi has fallen into his first extended slump of the year with only three hits in 34 at-bats, a .088 stretch that has dragged his average down from .286 to .273. Gregorius has already achieved career-high totals in home runs (17) and RBI (64), but he has not homered in 84 at-bats since Aug. 18.

It comes at a time that he has been moved around the lineup as Girardi seeks to find players who can be productive in the middle of the lineup with the release of Alex Rodriguez and the reduction in playing time of retiring Mark Teixeira.

Actually, Gregorius has been decent as a cleanup hitter, batting .279 with four doubles, one triple, one home run and seven RBI in 43 at-bats but has hit only .231 in 13 at-bats in the 3-hole. He is most comfortable — and productive — hitting lower in the order. His combined numbers from the 7- and 8-holes indicate that: .301 with 14 doubles, seven homers and 32 RBI in 226 at-bats.

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