NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 1:03 PM
A wrist injury slowed Brett Gardner at the plate in the second half of the 2015 season.
Alan Cockrell will be the Yankees’ third hitting coach in as many seasons, following the firings of Kevin Long in 2014 and Jeff Pentland last month.
Cockrell, who served as Pentland’s assistant last season, previously has held the top position with the Rockies (2007-08) and the Mariners (2009-10). Marcus Thames, a former Yankees outfielder who has spent the past three seasons working as an organizational instructor, has been promoted to Joe Girardi’s staff to serve as Cockrell’s assistant.
“I don’t think it’s the Yankees; I think it’s baseball, in general. There are no assurances. It’s a volatile position. If you don’t hit, then they’ll find somebody else,” Cockrell said Wednesday on a conference call. “I experienced that twice before in Colorado and Seattle. I think everybody who’s been in the game has experienced it. There are no assurances. I’m thankful and honored and excited about this opportunity. I’m excited about the guys we have and to be working with Marcus and to be working for Joe, the most prepared manager I’ve ever worked with.
“But it’s a ‘what have you done for me lately’ industry, so we all know that when we got into this business. You just do it and we deal with it.”
Under Pentland and Cockrell, the Yanks finished with the No. 2 offense in the majors in 2015, with their 764 runs ranking behind only the Blue Jays’ 891. But the Bombers’ attack went limp down the stretch, ranking 11th in runs scored in September.
Two regulars who didn’t hit in the second half were top-of-the-order batters Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. Cockrell revealed that Gardner was hampered all season by a right wrist injury stemming from getting hit by a pitch on April 13 in Baltimore, while Ellsbury struggled to play through a knee injury that landed him on the disabled list for nearly two months bridging May and July.
Gardner never went on the DL – and he made the All-Star team – but he hit just .203/.288/.290 after Aug. 1.
“Those guys downplayed it, so I probably shouldn’t up-play it when they downplayed it, but facts are facts, and if you don’t have legs or your hands, it’s tough to hit,” Cockrell said. “Gardy, I know that that bothered him off and on the entire year … I know he was getting some cortisone and some things like that to try to help him, and they did. They helped him in spurts, but you can only get three of those in a year.”
New Yankees hitting coach Alan Cockrell raves about Alex Rodriguez’s baseball smarts.
Cockrell also worked closely last year with Alex Rodriguez in his return from a season-long ban for PEDs. He believes the former All-Star can put up another productive season after hitting 33 homers with 86 RBI and an .842 OPS after missing all of 2014 on a PED suspension.
“What I learned about him as a hitter is that he’s the smartest baseball player I’ve ever been around in every aspect,” Cockrell said. “He knows his swing mechanically, the approach and how he breaks down pitchers and what his approach should be, the smartest guy I’ve ever been around. He’s talented to the level that if an adjustment needs to be made and we’ve looked at video and we can identify it, he can go make an adjustment and put it into his game that day, that night. Not many people can do that.
“What the future holds, I really don’t know, but I do know and I know Alex well enough to know that he is a professional to the Nth degree and he will prepare himself to come in here next year and be ready to go. I would be surprised if he doesn’t come back and have another great year.”
Cockrell, 52, is a former top-10 draft pick in baseball and also played quarterback at Tennessee, leading the Vols to a 1983 Florida Citrus Bowl win over Boomer Esiason and Maryland.