NEW YORK (AP) — Hitting coach Dillon Lawson was fired by the New York Yankees after Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs, a rare midseason change by a franchise that has prized stability since Hal Steinbrenner took over from his father as controlling owner.
New York’s .231 batting average is 28th among the 30 major league teams, ahead of only Detroit and Oakland. The Yankees are batting a major league-worst .218 in 31 games since Aaron Judge tore a ligament in his right big toe on June 3, going 14-17 and entering the All-Star break in fourth place of the AL East 49-42.
New York is fifth in the majors with 129 homers, but 18th in runs and its .300 on-base percentage is 26th.
No replacement was announced. General manager Brian Cashman, who had never before fired a coach during a season, said he will hire a successor from outside the organization before the Yankees begin the second half Friday at Colorado.
Cashman said assistant hitting coaches Casey Dykes and Brad Wilkerson will be retained and he decided to make the change on Saturday after the Yankees lost 14-1 to the Orioles on Thursday and got two hits a night later in a 3-0 defeat to the Cubs that marked the 12th time they scored two runs or fewer since Judge was injured and 30th time this year.
“I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people watching our games play out here, especially in the more recent months that I definitely started to feel like I might be in position for the first time,” Cashman said.
The Yankees headed into the break with Giancarlo Stanton hitting .203 and Anthony Rizzo hitting .168 with no homers and seven RBIs since hurting his neck in a collision on May 28. Josh Donaldson is batting .152 while DJ LeMahieu is hitting .220 after slumping last September because of a toe injury and then missing the playoffs.
“I don’t make these decisions lightly,” Cashman said. “I’ve never not been willing to make a decision like this but with careful consideration, I decided as we move forward, we have a sprint here in the second half, I felt like this was necessary.
“Our offense has struggled mightily, more so than I can recall. The team that we have, in fairness to Dillon, we have had some injuries without a doubt but collectively we really have struggled, and we’re best served kind of changing things up a little bit as we move into the second half.”
It is New York’s first in-season coaching change since Nardi Contreras replaced Billy Connors in July 1995 as pitching coach on Buck Showalter’s staff.
Lawson joined the Yankees as minor league hitting coordinator for 2019 and was promoted to major league hitting coach for 2022 to succeed Marcus Thames, who held the position for five seasons.
Before joining the Yankees, he was an assistant coach at Lindenwood from 2007-09, Morehead State from 2009-12, and Southeast Missouri State from 2012-15, then worked for the Houston Astros at Tri-City in 2016 and Quad Cities in 2018, spending 2017 as hitting coach at the University of Missouri.
In Lawson’s first season, New York’s .241 average was 15th but the Yankees were second with 807 runs and topped the majors with 254 homers, led by Judge’s AL-record 62, New York won 99 games in the regular season.
During the postseason, New York batted .173 (49 for 284) with 103 strikeouts in nine games against Cleveland and Houston.