Yanks hitting coach Dillon Lawson relieved of duties

July 10th, 2023

NEW YORK -- In more than two decades as the Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman had never dismissed a coach during the season, believing that all performances should be evaluated over a 162-game sample. This time, he had seen enough.

With the Yankees continuing to rank near the bottom of the league in numerous offensive categories, hitting coach Dillon Lawson was relieved of his duties following Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Cubs at Yankee Stadium.

“I came up in an organization that made changes in-season constantly. It's not something I've gravitated to in my tenure as general manager,” Cashman said. “But at the same time, when you feel like you have to do that, then you do it and you face it, full-bore.”

Cashman said that Lawson’s replacement will come from outside the organization, and that assistant hitting coaches Casey Dykes and Brad Wilkerson will remain on staff in their current roles.

The lead hitting coach position has not yet been offered to anyone, according to Cashman, who said he has been assembling an internal list of candidates. Cashman intends to announce a hire before the Yankees open the second half of the regular season on Friday at Colorado.

“There's an opportunity here,” Cashman said. “I believe that we do have more than capable players to find higher ground than we found in the first half. I'm looking for a unique personality that will blend and connect with that group of players, as well as some of the players that I currently have on the injured list.”

Cashman, who is in Tampa, Fla., to oversee the MLB Draft, said he spoke with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner on Saturday via telephone. During that conversation, Cashman suggested making a change, to which Steinbrenner gave his blessing.

The timeline suggests the Yanks’ 3-0 loss to the Cubs on Friday evening may have represented a final straw. New York was held to one hit over eight innings that night by right-hander Jameson Taillon, who entered play with a 6.93 ERA, the highest in the Majors among pitchers with 60 or more innings this year.

Scoring has been a season-long issue for the Yankees, who reached the All-Star break with a 49-42 record, good for fourth place in the American League East, eight games behind the division-leading Rays. Overall, the Yankees rank near the bottom of the league in batting average (.231 -- tied for 28th), hits (690 -- 29th) and on-base percentage (.300 -- 26th).

“Since I've been here, we've had pretty consistently high levels of offensive production,” Cashman said. “This year has been a completely different story. Ultimately, the end results are not that Yankees DNA that we're used to seeing.”

Their numbers have taken an even more significant hit since Aaron Judge was lost to a right big toe sprain. They are 14-17 since Judge crashed into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium on June 3, owning the lowest batting average (.218), lowest on-base percentage (.288) and third-fewest runs (117) in the Majors over that span.

“I wanted to give things a chance to work its way through, but I feel honestly at this point, it's not going to improve -- at least as it sits,” Cashman said. “It doesn't mean the offense couldn't have gotten better organically, but I feel like we'll be better served with a new messenger.”

Lawson, 38, was the Yankees’ fifth hitting coach in the last 10 years, following stints by Kevin Long (2007-14), Jeff Pentland (2015), Alan Cockrell (2016-17), and Marcus Thames (2018-21).

He spent his first three seasons in the organization (2019-21) as the Yankees’ Minor League hitting coordinator, where he popularized the mantra of, “Hit strikes hard.” Prior to joining the Yankees, Lawson spent two seasons with the Astros organization, serving as the hitting coach for Single-A Quad Cities in 2018 and short-season Single-A Tri-City in 2016. 

“I don't think that Dillon can't be a Major League coach with consistent success,” Cashman said. “I think this is part of the growing process and the learning curve. We still think the world of him and we know what his capabilities are, but I just think at this time and place, we’re best served moving forward with a change.”