ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader did everything right to position himself for another run-saving catch in the third inning of Saturday’s game at Tropicana Field.

With a man on second, the Rays’ Josh Lowe laced a drive to deep right-center facing Clarke Schmidt. As usual, Bader read it perfectly. He got a great jump, then used his fastest-on-the-club sprint speed to race over and back.


Then when Bader was approaching the warning track, he lost the ball in the domed roof and ended up running too far to the right. The baseball wound up banging off the 10-foot-high wall about a foot from the top for an RBI double that made it a 3-0 ballgame, and that’s how the Yankees’ 11th loss in their last 13 game ended.

This was bad luck for Bader, but the one part of his game that you can always count on didn’t work out this time.

The rest of Bader’s game is totally unreliable.

His center-field play usually is dynamic and Bader brings speed, power and energy when he’s going well at the plate, but long slumps and many lost games due to injury are the defining characteristics of his short Yankees career that surely will end when he files for free agency after the World Series.

Bader can be streaky hot — we sure saw it last October when he hit five homers in nine playoff games — but he’s prone to go Giancarlo Stanton-esque bad, too.

And that’s where Bader is now while the Yankees are playing out the string of what will be their first non-playoff season since 2016 and what could be their first losing one since 1992. He was 0-for-3 with a groundout to the catcher, flyout to center and strikeout in Saturday’s loss, leaving him 3-for-31 in his last 10 games and batting .246 for the season with seven homers in 80 games and none in 42 since July 3.

“It’s been rough, no doubt about it,” Bader said after Saturday’s game.

No, this Jordan Montgomery for Bader 2022 trade-deadline-day shocker with the Cardinals didn’t work out like the Yankees had hoped.

Factoring all that in, here’s a question for Brian Cashman:

The Yankees decided last week to start looking ahead to 2024 by calling up Everson Pereira to play left field and Oswald Peraza to play third base, so why not kick this rebuilt into a higher gear?

Cashman can do that next Friday by making Jasson Dominguez one of the Yankees’ two September call-ups, then playing the switch-hitting, 20-year-old in center field for the rest of the season.

Sure, Dominguez just was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A last week on the day Pereira got his first big-league callup. But already he’s killing it for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a .450 average and eight RBI in six games.

On Saturday night up in Lackawanna County, Pa., Dominguez was 4-for-7 with three RBI in a doubleheader sweep of Lehigh Valley hitting out of the two hole while playing left in Game 1 and center in Game 2.

What do the Yankees have to lose getting Dominguez’s feet wet in the bigs with 100 or so September at-bats? He has to be put on the 40-man roster by the winter anyway and Cashman easily can open a spot now by DFA-ing outfielder Franchy Cordero, who has no future with the Yankees.

Dominguez looked great this year in his first big-league spring training hitting .455 with four homers and nine RBI in 22 at-bats over 11 Grapefruit League games, but most of his plate appearances were against fellow minor leaguers.

September at-bats against big-league pitching will better prepare Dominguez for next spring when he could be competing with Pereira for a starting job in left or center, if the Yankees don’t address both spots in the winter.

Anthony Volpe won the Yankees’ starting shortstop job last spring after entering spring camp with no big-league experience and just 22 Triple-A games. Would big-league at-bats last September possibly have led to Volpe having a better rookie season at the plate?

Maybe, but Peraza was ahead of Volpe on the organizational shortstop depth chart this time a year ago, so he’s the one who received late-season playing time and even a playoff start when the Yankees were fazing out Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

This September, there’s nothing stopping the Yankees from being all-in on a rebuild.

They were 62-67 with 33 to go, so keep playing Pereira, who is just 2-for-18 in five games but had all hard-contact outs in Saturday’s 0-for-3.

Keep playing Peraza, who is down to .157 in 24 games after his 0-for-3 with two Ks on Saturday.

Call up hit-first catching prospect Austin Wells in September to do some catching and play some first base (which the Yankees are talking about, Boone said on Saturday).

And get Dominguez up to play center field.

The Yankees trading for Bader was a feel-good story because he grew up just a few minutes from Yankee Stadium in Bronxville, N.Y., and it’s been fun watching him play center because he’s as good as anyone out there when he’s not losing the ball in the ceiling.

But Bader was in a walking boot when the Yankees acquired him last summer and didn’t play until mid-September due to plantar fasciitis. Then he missed the first 30 games this season with an oblique strain, then another 16 in June with a hamstring strain. Also, he didn’t hit at all last September and his numbers this season are disappointing.

Sorry, Bader can’t be counted on, and the Yankees’ top three prospects are center fielders. There’s Pereira, Dominguez and MLB Pipeline’s organizational No. 1 Spencer Jones, a 6-foot-7, lefty-swinging Aaron Judge clone who was promoted from High-A Hudson Valley to Double-A Somerset on Sunday morning.

Bader will be elsewhere next year and Dominguez probably will be pushing for a big-league starting job at some point, right? Thus, the Yankees might as well unleash the Martian this week.

Let Dominguez spend a month around Judge to watch how the captain prepares for big-league games. And let him play a bunch of low-stakes MLB games so he’s not facing big-league pitching for the first time when winning trumps rebuilding.

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Randy Miller may be reached at

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