Yankees part ways with hitting coach Dillon Lawson

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

As the Yankees continued to rank near the bottom of the league in several offensive categories, manager 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 the season constantly. That’s not something I’ve gravitated towards in my tenure as a general manager,” Cashman said. “But at the same time, when you feel like you have to to do it, you do it, and you face it, fully.”

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

The head coaching position has yet to be offered to anyone, according to Cashman, who said he has assembled an internal list of candidates. Cashman intends to make a hiring announcement before the Yankees open the second half of the regular season on Friday in Colorado.

“There’s an opportunity here,” Cashman said. “I believe we 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 mix and connect with that group of players, as well as some of those players , which I currently have on the injury list.”

Cashman, who is in Tampa, Fla., to oversee the MLB Draft, said he spoke with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner on Saturday by phone. 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 night may have represented a last straw. New York was held to one hit over eight innings that night by right-hander Jameson Taillon, who entered the game with a 6.93 ERA, the highest in the Majors among pitchers with 60 or more innings pitched this year.

Scoring has been a season-long problem for the Yankees, who entered the All-Star break with a 49-42 record, good for fourth 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. At the end of the day, the end results aren’t the 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 themselves out, but I honestly feel at this point it’s not going to get better — at least as it stands,” Cashman said. “That’s not to say 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 efforts 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, popularizing the mantra “Hit hits 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 Dillon can’t be a major league coach with consistent success,” Cashman said. “I think it’s part of the growth process and the learning curve. We still think the world of him and we know what his abilities are, but I just think at this point and here we’re best served moving on with a change.”

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