DENVER — When most of the Yankees left the Stadium on Sunday after their 91st game of the season, they were under the impression that Dillon Lawson was still their hitting coach.
By the end of the night, however, Lawson had been fired, taking the fall for the Yankees’ first–half offensive woes.
And by the time the Yankees reconvened on Friday at Coors Field to play their 92nd game of 2023, they sat in on a 30-minute advance meeting in which their new hitting coach, Sean Casey, put his energetic and passionate persona on full display. The Yankees hope that energy can help jump-start their offense in the second half, although it had little effect in Friday’s 7-2 loss to the Rockies.
“My impression of him,” Aaron Judge, who took batting practice on the field for the first time since going to the IL with a sprained right toe, said with a chuckle, “[is] he’s a great personality. He’s a guy that brings the energy. He’s going to motivate you, push you a little bit. When you got a guy like that that’s going to be in our corner every single pitch, every single day, I’m looking forward to it. We just had a good hitters’ meeting, a little team meeting, and he spoke about what he wants to do here.
“The boys were pretty fired up.”
The Yankees entered the All-Star break with an offense that ranked 19th in runs per game (4.40), 21st in OPS (.710), 13th in slugging percentage (.410), 26th in on-base percentage (.300) and 28th in batting average (.231).
Still, Judge and DJ LeMahieu both said Lawson’s firing came as a surprise.
“We weren’t clicking. We weren’t hitting,” LeMahieu said. “I don’t really think it was [Lawson’s] fault. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault. We just weren’t clicking in the first half offensively. We’re ready to get after it [in the second half].”
Brian Cashman said he wanted a new messenger, which is why he made his first in-season coaching change during his 26-year tenure as Yankees general manager.
Asked if Lawson’s message wasn’t getting through, Judge said he couldn’t speak for everybody.
“Me and Dillon got some quality work in, especially when I had a feeling he’d be the hitting coach a couple years ago,” Judge said. “I tried to spend as much time as I could with him to try to understand where he was coming from, what he likes to work on, what his philosophies are. He gave me some good nuggets I still use today.”
That said, the Yankees were looking forward to working with Casey, who brought in instant gravitas owing to his 12-year MLB career, during which he hit .302 with a .814 OPS.
“I think everybody has strengths,” Josh Donaldson said. “Part of Sean Casey’s strengths is being in the batters’ box. I think there is some knowledge for that. And also going through the ups and downs of a season. I definitely think he’s going to have advice and things he feels are going to be beneficial for us.”
It has been a whirlwind week for Casey, who was announced as the new hitting coach on Monday. By Friday, Casey’s former employer, MLB Network, was on the televisions in the visiting clubhouse at Coors Field while Casey ran a hitters’ meeting.
“For as great a guy as he is, and gregarious and charismatic and high-energy and friendly, he’s dead-serious about hitting,” said manager Aaron Boone, who was Casey’s teammate for five seasons on the Reds. “He’s got a lot of knowledge to impart, and I’m confident he’ll be able to do that.”
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