Postgame notes: Infielders on display
March, 27, 2014
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsEduardo Nunez hopes to slide into a spot on the Yankees' Opening Day roster.BRADENTON, Fla. -- The candidates for the remaining two non-pitching spots on the Yankees' roster, Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte, each had a chance to make a final presentation to Joe Girardi before the manager and his staff decide tomorrow on which two will accompany the team to Houston, and which one will be heading to Scranton, Pa.
And if the competition were to be decided on a single day's play -- which I am sure it is not -- then Nunez would be packing for the team charter and the fate of the other two might still be coming down to a coin flip.
Nunez went 3-for-4 with an RBI and run scored in today's 4-2 Yankees victory over the Pirates. Both Anna and Solarte were hitless in four at-bats.
And none of them stood out in the field, for either good or bad.
And yet, if I had to make a call right now, I'd say Nunez is a lock, because of his big league experience, and Anna has the edge over Solarte since he is on the 40-man roster, meaning the Yankees do not have to make a personnel move to add him.
In any event, whoever the "second choice" is -- I'm assuming Nunez will make the team -- probably won't be around for very long, since the Yankees signed Brendan Ryan to a two-year deal as a backup infielder and he is likely to rejoin the team 10 days or fewer into the regular season once the Yankees backdate the start of his DL stint due to upper back spasms.
Still, there was pressure on all three young men today, and while no one blew his opportunity, only Nunie truly stepped up and seized it.
"It's the same thing for me every year, the same situation," said Nunez, who finished the spring with a .265 batting average. "I try to make the team. So nothing different. Nothing."
Asked if he was surprised Girardi was allowing the decision to go down to the wire -- the Yankees break camp after Saturday's final game and fly that night to Houston -- Nunez said, "The last two years, they tell me the last two days of the camp. So for me it’s not a surprise. A surprise for me would be if they tell me with a week [remaining]."
Nunez was quick to add that he wasn't complaining, just kidding. Still, it's tough to know you're heading somewhere in less than 48 hours without knowing precisely where.
But that's the life of a utility infielder. Solarte, who kicked around the minors for eight seasons in the Twins and Rangers organizations before signing a free-agent deal with the Yankees this winter, had a great spring at the plate, batting .415 with two homers and eight RBIs. But he knows from past experience that guarantees him nothing.
"This is the second time I’ve felt like this," said Solarte, who had a good spring with Texas in 2012. "It is something that has happened continuously during my career. It gives me more motivation to keep working if I don’t get one of the spots."
Anna, who in six seasons in the Padres organization was never once invited to spring training, was happy to still be in the running for a job this late in his first big league camp. But he also knows the Yankees aren't doing him any favors here; his spring, in which he hit only .268 but showed the versatility to play shortstop after a career as mostly a second and third baseman, opened some eyes.
"I worked hard all offseason to get where I am right now, so I’m not real shocked," he said. "But it’s definitely nice to be fighting for a spot and be here at the end. Whatever happens from here on out, I feel like I did pretty well."
Still, all three will be waiting anxiously for Girardi to announce his roster decisions sometime before tomorrow night's game against the Marlins. If nothing else, all three would like to know what kind of weather to pack for.
"It's funny," said Nunez. "And it's not funny."
No relief yet: The remaining candidates for a couple of bullpen spots took the stand, er, mound, today as well. Dellin Betances, Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, David Phelps and Cesar Cabral all saw action, and only Phelps -- who was in the running for the No. 5 starter's job until yesterday -- got nicked up, allowing the Pirates their only two runs in 2/3 of an inning. Still, Phelps and Warren are virtually assured jobs in the Yankees' pen, and Betances should be. After the other locks -- David Robertson, Matt Thornton and Shawn Kelley -- that leaves one job open between three candidates. (RHP Shane Greene is still in the mix.) Girardi said he will make all remaining roster decisions after a meeting tomorrow afternoon in his office.
Don't scratch Ich: Ichiro Suzuki continues to make his own case for playing time, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored today.
Riding the interstate: Mark Teixeira's spring average fell to .091 with an 0-for-3 day, but he did drive in a run with a groundout and drew a walk.
Early Ellsbury: With rain in the forecast tomorrow afternoon, the Yankees have moved up the time of Jacoby Ellsbury's minor league game to 10 a.m. No decision yet on whether he will play in the major league spring finale Saturday afternoon.
Tomorrow: Hiroki Kuroda will start the second-to-last spring training game against the Marlins, but will give way to Masahiro Tanaka after two innings. Girardi said Tanaka will be "extended" tomorrow, meaning at least four innings. Most, if not all, the regulars, minus Ellsbury, are expected to play in both games this weekend.