With the Yankees officially shutting down Nick Johnson for the season, basically ending his New York career, Austin Kearns’ role just got a bit bigger.
Mainly being used as the first outfielder of the bench, Kearns also spell Curtis Granderson against tough lefties. On a bench devoid of a homerun threat when Lance Berkman’s in the lineup, the big bat of 6’4 righty allows the Yankees to introduce power in late inning scenarios.
Although a right-hander, Kearns hits righty pitching statistically better this year (.286 to .264) than left-handers. Blessed with plate discpline, albeit not as strong as Johnson’s, Kearns has always been able to bring the threat of the long ball to every at-bat. Hampered by injuries in recent years, the former Cincinatti Red prospect has topped the 15-homerun plateau four times in his career reaching a high of 24 in ’06.
Switching between his platoon with Granderson and pinch-hitting duties, Kearns has been able to shake off a rough start to his Yankee career by racking up 5 RBIs in the past week. With two homers in limited duty the past month, the Yankees’ fourth outfielder has provided a presence in a lineup that has scored 9 runs or more four times this week.
As September approaches and legs tire out, the addition of Austin Kearns will be a boon for the Yankees down the stretch. In October as well, Kearns platoon role will help fortify a lineup of power hitters.