New York Yankees: Yangervis Solarte

Solarte thanks Yanks, fans

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
NEW YORK -- Yangervis Solarte was the feel-good story of this year's spring training camp and the first two months of the regular season, when he batted .298 with six home runs and 26 RBIs. But he tailed off badly after that, and today his Yankees career ended when he was shipped off to San Diego along with minor league pitching prospect Rafael De Paula for Chase Headley.

Solarte spoke by phone with Marly Rivera of on his way to the airport.

"I just want to thank the New York Yankees for the opportunity they gave me; they made my dream to play in the majors come true," said Solarte, who had spent eight seasons in the minor league systems of two other organizations before making New York's team this past spring. "I am very thankful for the support the Yankee fans gave me, which was completely unexpected; they gave me inspiration to keep fighting and working hard."

But Solarte, 26, was clearly blindsided by the trade, which was announced this afternoon. "I never imagined I would be traded, but I see it as a positive, as an opportunity to get to play every day, and do what I have to do to stay in the majors," he said. "If it were not for the Yankees I would not be where I am today, so I want to thank everyone for their support; this is another opportunity for me to prove myself as a player. It was amazing getting to play next to one of the best players of all time.''

By that, Solarte meant Derek Jeter. Duh.

Considering the similarity between Solarte's and Headley's stats this season, Yankees GM Brian Cashman was asked if he considered Solarte's April and May an aberration, and his June and July -- when he hit just .200 over his final 200 plate appearances as a Yankee -- more indicative of the player he was likely to be.

"It’s hard to say," Cashman said. "Some players can find themselves later in their career and I think that’s yet to be determined in Yangervis Solarte’s case. When we signed him our assessment was he would be a real quality support player, and he emerged into something much more than that, something that our scouting reports didn’t really project. There has been a market correction to some degree."

Cashman also thanked Solarte for his early-season contributions, when for a time he was among the team leaders in home runs and RBIs. "He was a great story," Cashman said. "He was a great individual. He gave us everything he had. So we were lucky to have him. He really saved our bacon early this year. When we had a lot of other issues going on this year, he stepped up. And for that we’re thankful. He brings a lot of energy and a positive attitude so I wish him well."
CLEVELAND -- It was a brief banishment to the minor leagues for Yangervis Solarte, the sensation of spring training and April who suffered a precipitous fall through May and June and wound up spending his Fourth of July in Scranton.

But after just five games as a RailRider, over which he hit .600 (12-for-20), he is back, replacing Carlos Beltran on the roster after Beltran was placed on the seven-day concussion DL.

What was the difference? Well, before you give me the easy answer -- Triple-A pitching -- Solarte says there is something else as well: A newly-rediscovered aggressiveness that had deserted him as his major league experience grew more difficult.

"Swing at the first pitch," Solarte said when asked to describe the secret of his Triple-A resurgence. "I think the last week that I played here, they started with the fastball in the middle, and I take it, always taking. Now, I go down and let me try swinging at the first pitch."

Solarte said he played both ends of a doubleheader in Scranton on Wednesday night, and was in the midst of a third game -- on his PlayStation -- when he got a call after midnight telling him to be in Cleveland in time for tonight's game.

"I felt bad," Solarte said about being sent down, "but always, I stay motivated. I'm very excited right now that I've got another opportunity."

Gardner well again: Brett Gardner sat out last night's game with some lower abdominal soreness but told Joe Girardi he felt well enough to go tonight, so the manager penciled him into the leadoff spot, conditional on him coming through batting practice OK. Apparently, he did, because he's still in the lineup.

Wheels in the outfield: Zelous Wheeler will make his first major league start in right field tonight. Wheeler, a third baseman by trade, played 12 games in right for Triple-A Scranton this season with no errors and two assists in 21 chances.

Ryan for Brian: Girardi is giving Brian Roberts a day off, so backup shortstop Brendan Ryan will make his second start of the season at second base. Ryan has started 45 games at second over his eight-year major league career.

Phelps: 'Worst kind of teammate'

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When David Phelps measures his pain and suffering, the tiebreaking home run Salvador Perez hit wasn't nearly as hurtful as the two walks that preceded it.

Those were the killers. His Yankees teammates had scratched out three runs in the top of the sixth inning to knot the game against the Kansas City Royals at three. Then, Phelps walked Billy Butler and Alex Gordon to start the bottom of the inning. Perez, picking on a pitch that probably wasn't even a strike, then slammed an 0-1 delivery over the fence in left, and the Yankees were on their way to an 8-4 loss that had Phelps feeling worse than anyone else in a subdued visitor's clubhouse.

[+] EnlargeDavid Phelps
Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesDavid Phelps was roughed up for seven runs over 5 2/3 innings in Kansas City.
"Those were the two biggest at-bats of the game," said Phelps (1-4), whose team has lost his past five road starts. "We had just scored three runs. Worst kind of teammate right there. We have all the momentum right there, and in nine pitches, I give it right back."

It didn't help anybody's mood that the ball Perez hit wasn't even a strike.

"It was down and in," Phelps said. "I was shocked that he hit it like he did. But you got to hand it to him. He put a pretty good swing on it. It was down at his shoetops."

It didn't look like a strike from where manager Joe Girardi was standing.

"The two walks really hurt him," Girardi said. "Then the pitch to Perez is down and in -- not even a strike -- and he hits it out of the ballpark."

One pitch after Perez's home run, Lorenzo Cain tripled and later scored on an RBI single for a 7-3 lead which must have seemed massive to the run-impoverished Yankees attack.

"I was just trying to be too fine. I was trying to be a little too perfect," Phelps said. "I've got to trust my stuff and just throw the ball over the plate. I'm making the game a lot harder than it needs to be."

Some good news: Carlos Beltran got his first hit since coming back from the DL, breaking an 0-for-9 slide with an RBI double that keyed the three-run sixth. Before the game, Girardi predicted the switch-hitting designated hitter would shake off the rust and start helping an offense that needs all the help it can muster.

"It's always good once you do something good to help the team," Beltran said. "Unfortunately, we just didn't win this one. They pitched a good game. So hopefully tomorrow we come back."

Day by day, Beltran said. he's feeling a big more comfortable.

"A little better. I feel a little better. Every day I come to the ballpark and go to the cage and work on my swing and try to get the rhythm and get the timing. The only way I'm going to get it is by playing."

So how close is he to 100 percent?

"One day, two days isn't going to do it. You have to basically play every time, and with playing time that will come. I cannot tell you. I wish I could know."

Solarte comes up big: Yangervis Solarte drove in two runs for the first time since May 11 at Milwaukee. He also had a double and scored in the ninth.
NEW YORK -- Yangervis Solarte may have the best average in the American League at .336, but that is not good enough to move him up in the Yankees' lineup -- at least, not yet.

"We've kind of kept him where he is at because we are six weeks into the season," Joe Girardi said. "He's been really successful. I've hit him sixth sometimes."

Solarte is batting seventh Wednesday against right-handed rookie Rafael Montero. The Yankees could swap Solarte with Derek Jeter into the two hole, but that would be a momentous decision Girardi is not prepared to make yet. Jeter entered Wednesday batting .262 with a homer and seven RBIs. Solarte has three homers and a team-best 22 RBIs.

Notes: Carlos Beltran is unavailable again Wednesday. It will take some time before the Yankees know how much of an impact the cortisone shot in his right elbow has made. If it doesn't do the trick, Beltran could be headed to the DL and to surgery. ... Ichiro Suzuki (back) is feeling better. Girardi said he would check with Ichiro after he hit in the batting cage. ... Girardi said he probably doesn't have Alfredo Aceves, Preston Claiborne and Matt Daley tonight.

Notes: Girardi 'shocked' he was ejected

May, 14, 2014
May 14
NEW YORK -- New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ejected by plate umpire Jerry Layne on Tuesday night, prior to the start of the sixth inning. After the game, Girardi said he was still confused about it.

"I got thrown out, and I have no idea why," Girardi said, following the Yankees' 12-7 loss to the New York Mets.

The Yankees were trailing 11-5 at the time. Kelly Johnson had just struck out looking, with two runners on base, to end the fifth inning. Girardi emerged from the dugout to talk to Layne, but it turns out Layne had already ejected the Yankees manager.

Girardi did admit being unhappy with Layne during the Johnson at-bat.

"You saw the pitches that inning. Runners in scoring position, still a lot of at-bats left. All I said was, 'Come on, Jerry, those pitches are on the white line.' And he tossed me," Girardi said.

"And I’ll tell you, there are days that I deserve to get tossed," Girardi added. "There are days I deserve to get fined, I will not lie to you on that. You’ve seen I get pretty animated and angry. [But] I didn’t say nothing!"

Layne, the crew chief, has been a major league ump since 1989. He was the crew chief for the 2011 World Series and has also worked three All-Star Games, five league championship series and one other World Series.

Girardi said he hadn't been riding Layne earlier in the game, nor had anyone else on the Yankees' bench to his knowledge. "Jerry’s usually mild-mannered. I’m shocked. I’m still shocked," Girardi said. "He just said, 'Come on, Joe, you know me.' And I do, that’s why I’m still shocked!"

"It’s not his fault -- I’m not blaming him that we lost, it has nothing to do with him," Girardi added. "But I thought that was a big point in the game, where we had a chance to get back into it. And we had two guys who are able to hit the ball out of the ballpark [coming up], and it’s frustrating to me, and I’m gonna protect our guys."

It was Girardi's 25th career ejection, including his 22nd as a manager. He was also ejected from a game while playing for the Yankees on Aug. 6, 1999.

Bright spots: In one of their ugliest defeats in recent memory, there were a few positives for the Yankees.

Chief among them was Yangervis Solarte, who went 2-for-4 with a walk. Among the hits was a solo homer in the eighth inning, his third of the season.

Solarte is now batting .336, tied with the Detroit Tigers' Victor Martinez for the best average in the American League. Solarte leads the Yankees with 22 RBIs, and is hitting .500 (14-for-28) during his current eight-game hitting streak. Not too shabby for a 26-year-old rookie who was a non-roster invitee to spring training.

Slumping catcher Brian McCann went 3-for-4 (plus a walk) with three RBIs, including his fifth home run of the season. McCann upped his batting average to .230.

And righty reliever Matt Daley, a Queens native, pitched three scoreless innings against the Mets, and did not even allow a hit.

Stats to know: The Subway Series

May, 12, 2014
May 12
Both the New York Mets and New York Yankees enter this year’s Subway Series a little cold, though the Mets can say they have a sliver of momentum after rallying from three runs down in the ninth inning to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, while the Yankees couldn’t complete a comeback against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistical storylines in this matchup.

The rivalry
The Mets won all four of their meetings with the Yankees last season and currently ride that winning streak, the longest against their crosstown rival. In fact, their pitchers were walk-free in each of the last three games in that series.

The Mets are 40-54 all time in regular-season games against the Yankees, including 17-30 all time at Yankee Stadium, but have won their past two games there.

Who’s hot?
The hottest players on each team are not names you’d expect -- Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy and Yankees utility man Yangervis Solarte.

Murphy is coming off a series against the Phillies in which he went 5-for-12 with five walks. He’s hitting .343 with a .918 OPS over his past 24 games, missing on only nine percent of his swings.

Solarte is 9-for-20 with seven RBIs in his past six games, with at least one hit in each one. That includes six hits in nine at-bats against left-handed pitching (started the season 10-for-44).

Who’s not?
Both team’s starting catchers are slumping.

The Yankees' Brian McCann has a hit in each of his past two games, but he is 6-for-43 in his past 11. The effects of the shift continue to take their toll on McCann, who is 2-for-17 when hitting a ground ball in that span.

The Mets' Travis d’Arnaud has hovered at or below .200 all season. He’s currently in a 5-for-30 slump that has dipped his batting average to .202.

One of d’Arnaud’s biggest issues is that once he gets to two strikes, he’s an almost automatic out. He’s 3-for-41 in two-strike counts this season.

Captains Clutch
You can read all about Derek Jeter’s career history of tormenting the Mets in our latest “Jeet Sheet,” but it’s worth noting that David Wright has a pretty good history against the Yankees.

Wright has a .316/.381/.546 slashline (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 46 games against the Yankees. Wright’s .927 OPS against the Yankees is his third-best against any team he’s faced at least 10 times (trailing the 1.021 against the Dodgers and 1.010 against the Rockies).

Tanaka meets the Mets
Masahiro Tanaka will face the Mets at Citi Field on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see if the Mets’ patient approach at the plate works against Tanaka, who has gotten hitters to miss on 52 percent of swings against his split-fingered fastball this season.

Granderson returns
Curtis Granderson returns to Yankee Stadium as a Met, and though he’s struggled this season, he’s hitting .308 with 12 hits in his past 11 games.

Granderson will try to find his power stroke in the Bronx. He had 47 home runs combined at Yankee Stadium in 2011 and 2012. He’s hit only three in 48 home games since then.

Flick of the RISP
The Mets have endured some significant struggles with runners in scoring position of late. However, they are hitting .247 in those situations this season, which is actually two points better than the Yankees, who have boosted their season numbers by going 12-for-30 in their past four games.
MILWAUKEE -- He's had 102 big-league at-bats now, and leads the New York Yankees in RBIs with 18 -- four more than Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, who are making a combined $58 million this season.

He is second on the team in on-base percentage (.387), behind only Ichiro Suzuki. And on Friday, he hit the Yankees' first three-run home run of the season, the big blow in their 5-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

[+] EnlargeYangervis Solarte
AP Photo/Jeffrey PhelpsYangervis Solarte had the biggest hit of the game, a three-run homer.
Is it safe now to assume that Yangervis Solarte is for real?

The 26-year-old from Venezuela, who spent eight years in the farm systems of two other organizations (Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers) before making the Yankees roster in his first camp with them, seems to have come through his first big-league slump -- actually, more like a slowdown -- to reclaim his status as one of the most productive bats in the lineup.

That's why there was a collective intake of breath when the Brewers' Carlos Gomez, having been sacrificed from second to third in the first inning, popped up out of a slide and came down firmly on Solarte's left foot. Solarte hopped around for a few seconds in obvious pain. But just like a couple of weeks ago, when Solarte got hit in what ballplayers like to call "a sensitive area" while running to first base, there was no serious thought of removing him from the game. The Yankees lineup, which managed just five other hits all game long, simply can't afford to be without him right now.

"Oh, God," Solarte said, recalling the first-inning encounter with Gomez's cleats. "I cried a little. He's a big guy. But I'm OK. Everything is perfect."

That it is. Batting left-handed, the switch-hitting Solarte jumped all over a first-pitch slider from Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo and rocketed it into the right-field seats in the fourth inning, his second home run of the season. Solarte was thrilled with his shot, as he should have been, but completely unaware he had jumped ahead of the rest of the team in RBIs.

“I don't know, I don’t know, I don't think about that," he said. "I just keep going. I want to just help the team. I love this, I’m getting a lot of experience right now. I need to learn from everybody.”

Solarte did go through an 0-for-13 slump, and it was easy to suspect the glass slipper had come off == that the rest of the league had found the holes in his swing and he would soon be back where he belongs, in Triple-A. But in the past four games, Solarte is 6-for-17 (.353) with five RBIs.

Manager Joe Girardi said he's not surprised by Solarte's success considering how well he hit in spring training, but acknowledged, "I look up and keep saying, this is the young man leading our team in RBIs, probably on-base percentage and he's obviously had a great first five or six weeks. He's played well and he deserves to be out there."

And no less an authority on consistency than Derek Jeter said, "He’s been one of our most consistent hitters. He went through a little stretch there where he scuffled, but that happens to everyone. Him and Jacoby (Ellsbury) have really been the only two guys who have been consistent for us throughout the first month of the season. He enjoys to be out there. He wants to play. He’s not intimidated by anything, and he’s done a good job.”

And earned the right to have people stop wondering when it all is going to end.

Teixeira: I'm getting in swing of things

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
NEW YORK -- It was just one swing, but it felt like so many before it.

[+] EnlargeMark Teixeira
AP Photo/John MinchilloMark Teixeira gave the Yankees a big boost with his seventh-inning blast.
When Mark Teixeira tied Sunday night's game in the seventh inning with a mammoth solo homer off Garrett Richards, his swing felt like it used to, before wrist surgery basically robbed him of his entire 2013 season.

"The biggest thing for me is that swing felt like before I got hurt," said Teixeira, who is batting .229 with two home runs and five RBIs in 11 games. "It has been a long time since I felt that. I want to keep doing it. It is consistency, continuing to get better. Hopefully, this is the first step to a lot of those."

It was Teixeira's first homer at Yankee Stadium since June 4, 2013. He only played in 15 games last season because of the wrist injury.

Has Teixeira finally moved past the injury for good?

"No," he said. "Hopefully, I will be soon. It is something I'll always have to keep an eye on."

It didn't help, Teixeira said, that he hurt his hamstring and went on the disabled list just three games into this season.

"Missing those two weeks was tough because I felt like I had to start over," he said. "But hopefully, we'll get into a nice groove here and the weather will warm up and I'll stay on the field and stay productive."

Solarte scratched: Yankees manager Joe Girardi scratched Yangervis Solarte a little more than an hour before first pitch with a shoulder injury.

"When he dove for the ball the other day, his shoulder was a little sore, maybe a little sorer than he let on," Girardi said. "I watched his [batting practice] today and he just didn't look quite the same swinging."

So Girardi took Solarte out of the lineup. "I told him, 'You get today off and you get Monday off and maybe it will be back to 100 percent,'" Girardi said.

A medical test -- Girardi didn't specify what kind, but it was probably an MRI -- came back negative, the manager said. The hope seems to be that Solarte will return to the lineup against Seattle on Tuesday.

It worked out for the Yankees, because Brian Roberts started for Solarte at second base. In the fifth inning, when the Yankees tied the game, it was Roberts' double that came in the middle of the sequence that led to the run.

Green light: Jacoby Ellsbury came around to score the winning run in the eighth inning on a walk, a passed ball and a wild pitch. But he still had opportunities to steal a base.

Did he have the green light to go? "I'm not going to always tell you what I'm going to do," Girardi said. "He was 52-for-56 last year."

We'll take that as a yes.

Ryan rehab: Brendan Ryan went 2-for-5 and played shortstop for nine innings during his first rehab game for Single-A Tampa. Girardi has said Ryan needs about 50 at-bats before he will be ready to join the big club. Ryan has not played yet this season because of a cervical spine injury.

Blocking machine: With Masahiro Tanaka on the mound, catcher Brian McCann has extra work to do, in order to keep the splitter in front of him when men are on base.

"I thought Brian did a great job of blocking balls tonight," Girardi said. "When [Tanaka] pitches, you are going to block balls. It is really important. He has worked really hard at it and it was big tonight."

Raving about Richards: The Yankees were very complimentary of Richards, the Angels starter. Teixeira said Richards reminded him of ex-Yankee Kevin Brown.

Gardner and Solarte sit on Sunday

April, 27, 2014
Apr 27
NEW YORK -- After taking a fastball off his foot on Saturday, New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner is out of the lineup for Sunday night's game.

"He's sore from yesterday, getting hit," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Gardner had an X-ray on Saturday, which was negative.

Girardi was unsure if Gardner will be available to pinch hit, or as a defensive replacement. The manager said Gardner would go through pregame drills to determine if he could play at all.

In Gardner's place, Ichiro Suzuki is in left field and batting ninth.

Solarte scratched: Girardi scratched Yangervis Solarte a little more than an hour before first pitch.

Solarte has a sore right shoulder. Brian Roberts will start at second base instead and bat eighth.

Jeter in: With a day game on Saturday after a night game on Friday, Girardi could have given Derek Jeter a rest on one of those days. However, with two lefties on the mound for the Angels and not a lot of options with Dean Anna not around anymore, Girardi played Jeter in both games.

Jeter is in the lineup again Sunday versus righty Garrett Richards.

Ryan rehab: Brendan Ryan was scheduled to start his rehab assignment in Tampa on Sunday. Girardi did not know how Ryan fared. The backup shortstop has missed the entire season thus far with a spine injury.

Pineda update: Michael Pineda will pitch in a simulated game on Tuesday to stay sharp during his 10-game suspension. He will throw a bullpen session on Sunday. He is eligible to return on Monday, May 5, in Los Angeles against the Angels.

Claiborne called up: The Yankees re-called Preston Claiborne on Sunday after putting Bruce Billings on the disabled list with a sore forearm.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- By this time tomorrow, the Yankees should be announcing the reinstatement to their roster of Mark Charles Teixeira, their $23-million-a-year first baseman who is expected to be ready to return after a 15-day stay on the disabled list with a hamstring strain.

That means there will be one infielder too many on the Yankees roster, and someone will have to go.

Rest assured, it will not be Yangervis Solarte.

[+] EnlargeYangervis Solarte
AP Photo/Steve NesiusYangervis Solarte won't be leaving the Yankees lineup anytime soon.
The 26-year-old rookie, whose formidable skill set somehow eluded the detection of the Minnesota Twins organization for six minor league seasons and the Texas Rangers for two more, is among the leading hitters not only on the Yankees roster, but in the American League. He started Friday night's game leading the AL in batting (.373), on-base percentage (.448), slugging percentage (.569), doubles (seven) and hits (19).

So he's not going anywhere soon. The slipper might yet fall off in this Cinderella story, but he's already done too much for the Yankees to be in any hurry to pull the plug on him.

However, when Teixeira comes back, he's going right back to first base. That means Kelly Johnson is going back to third. Derek Jeter is a fixture (no jokes, please) at shortstop. And Brian Roberts was signed to play second base -- most days anyway.

So where does Solarte fit in, and who sits to make room for him?

"I’ll worry about that when we get there," manager Joe Girardi said. "The kid has played great, there’s no doubt about it. If you’re playing well -- and you’re playing extremely well -- you’re going to continue to play someplace."

Girardi agreed that it was unusual that a player who appears as poised and accomplished as Solarte has in his first 17 big league games could have been overlooked by not one, but two major league organizations over a period of eight years.

But he refused to take the bait that somehow what Solarte has shown the Yankees is an illusion and that eventually, and inevitably, he will return to being the player that never impressed either the Twins or the Rangers enough to take a chance on him. The Rangers, in fact, allowed him to leave as a minor league free agent, and the Yankees scooped him up.

"Some guys are late bloomers," Girardi said. "It’s a short sample, I understand that, but it seems like the kid has an idea of what he’s doing. Sometimes, you wonder how a guy doesn’t get an opportunity."

So far, he has shown an ability to play two infield positions -- second and third -- and Girardi said he would even consider using him at shortstop "in a pinch." So badly did the Yankees want to find a role for him this spring that they even tried him in left field. An added plus is that he's a switch-hitter who has shown equal ability from each side of the plate.

"There are those days you think, 'Is there a day he’s not going get a hit?' and he finds a way to get a hit," Girardi said. "He’s just been really consistent with what he’s done. No matter where we’ve played him, third or second, he’s done a good job for us. He has not been fazed by his surroundings at all. You think about some of the people that he’s probably looked up to over the years watching them play. He’s sitting next to them now performing at an extremely high level."

So there's no question he will continue to play. He will even play tonight, I would bet, even though he fouled a ball off his left shin in the seventh inning last night and was dragging a huge bag of ice on his lower leg in the clubhouse afterward.

When asked Solarte if he was OK to play, he laughed. "I'm fine, fine," he said.

He's come too far to allow something as minor as a bruised shin to keep him out of the lineup.

He'll be in there, all right. The question is where, and in place of whom?

Question: When Tex returns, who should Yangervis Solarte replace in the Yankees infield, Kelly Johnson or Brian Roberts?

Tonight: The Yankees need length out of Ivan Nova (2-1, 5.94 ERA) after the bullpen meltdown in Friday's 11-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Nova faces right-hander Chris Archer (1-1, 4.50) in Game 3 of this four-game series. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.

What's a Yangervis, anyway?

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
NEW YORK -- It's only been eight games, but we already know Yangervis Solarte can hit. And it looks like he can field, at least well enough, anyway.

But if you're like a lot of Yankees fans, you're probably wondering what's up with his first name.

Well, Solarte explained it today, and it's a simple explanation: Yangervis is a combination of the first names of his mother, Yanmili, and his father, Gervis. Yan-Gervis. Easy, right?

Solarte, who leads the Yankees in batting average (.458), slugging average (.708), OPS (.519) and RBIs (7), has become an instant fan favorite, drawing cheers to rival Derek Jeter's at Monday night's homecoming dinner. And to think Joe Girardi's decision came down to the wire -- it wasn't until the last day of spring training that he decided to keep Solarte, who had a super spring as well, and give up on Eduardo Nunez, who was designated for assignment and eventually traded to the Twins for a Class A pitcher.

Solarte's roots in New York baseball go back more than eight games, however. He is the nephew of Roger Cedeno, who played for the Mets for three of his 11 big league seasons. As a boy, Solarte was a huge fan of his uncle's, and now his uncle is returning the favor. Solarte said he and Uncle Roger -- he is the brother of Solarte's father -- talk by phone after every game, and in fact spoke for two hours after Tuesday's game, in which Solarte had two doubles, giving him a major league-record six doubles in his first seven games.

"He was my example growing up," Solarte said. "And now he tells me he feels very proud of me, even more so than when he made it to the big leagues. And likewise, when he made it to the big leagues I was equally as proud of him. He told me every bit of advice he’s given to me has been repaid by the way I'm playing. He always has something positive to say to me."

Postgame notes: Solarte soars early

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
NEW YORK -- Some day, there's going to be another guy with six doubles in the first seven major-league games he plays.

And someone's going to do some research and come up with the name of Yangervis Solarte.

He might be as much of an unknown then as he was a week ago. He may be just another career minor leaguer who came up and had a great week in April but was forgotten by June.

[+] EnlargeYankees Yangervis
AP Photo/Kathy WillensYangervis Solarte is hitting .450 so far this season.
At least he's had this week.

"He's living his dream," teammate Alfonso Soriano said Tuesday.

The Yankees had a lousy day, but their 26-year-old rookie third baseman had another good one, one that gave him his tiny little piece of baseball history. His two doubles in the Yankees' 14-5 loss to the Orioles were his fifth and sixth, the most in the majors and the most anyone in recorded major-league history has had in the first seven games of a career.

What does it mean? Not a whole heck of a lot, any more than Jacoby Ellsbury's strong start at the plate means. The Yankees have played eight games, and we've had "small sample size" drilled into our heads enough to understand that eight games over the course of the season means little.

Except that they're the only eight games we have to go by right now. And the stats do count, and early impressions do make some impact.

Ellsbury signed a $153 million contract over the winter, and if he struggled through the first week, some would already be asking if it was affecting him.

Instead, he had another three-hit game Tuesday, his third in the last five games. After going hitless in his first two games and then getting a day off, he's 12 for 22 in the last five games.

"You never know how a new player is going to start off," manager Joe Girardi said. "But you never know how any player will. In any case, it's nice to see."

You know even less about Solarte, who spent eight years in the minor leagues and signed with the Yankees as a minor-league free agent. He made the team as the 25th player, but he got a chance to start the second game of the season, and started hitting.

Mark Teixeira's injury opened a spot on the infield, and Solarte has kept hitting.

Ten years from now, or even 10 weeks from now, this may not be memorable to anyone but him.

Right now, though, he's living a dream.

IN THEIR DEFENSE: Obviously, the Yankees didn't pitch well Tuesday. But there's another part of run prevention, and the Yankee defense didn't have a good day, either.

Ivan Nova might have had a scoreless first inning had Derek Jeter been able to turn a Delmon Young ground ball into a double play (instead, it went by him up the middle for a single that made it first and third, nobody out. Ellsbury made a particularly weak throw on the short Chris Davis sacrifice fly that followed. Later, the Yankees were unable to turn a second-inning Ryan Flaherty bunt into an out, and allowed Davis a fourth-inning infield hit when Brian Roberts' throw pulled Francisco Cervelli off the base at first.

A FIRST FOR CERVELLI: Cervelli's first game at first base wasn't terribly eventful, and Girardi said he was pleased enough that Cervelli could get other starts at first against left-handed pitching. The Yankees could see Jon Lester and Felix Doubront this weekend against the Red Sox.

One difference in playing first base for the first time: Cervelli had his name called in the Bleacher Creatures' first-inning role call. The catcher doesn't get called.

"That was exciting," Cervelli said.

SORI CATCHES THE DUKE: Soriano is off to a slow start, but his fourth-inning home run was the 407th of his career, tying Duke Snider for 50th place on baseball's all-time list.

Postgame notes: (Too) safe at home

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
TORONTO -- Joe Girardi seemed to think the play on which Francisco Cervelli was called out at the plate in the third inning was a significant one in the Yankees' 4-0 loss to the Blue Jays.

In fact, it was significant for another, more important reason: It illustrated the folly of baseball's attempt to legislate safety into what is an inherently dangerous part of the game.

[+] EnlargeFrancisco Cervelli
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesFrancisco Cervelli was called out at home plate Saturday -- which drew an argument from Joe Girardi and confusion from the catchers.
To recap: Cervelli, who had doubled, was trying to score on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury. Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus fired a one-hop bullet to Josh Thole, who fielded the throw and slapped the tag on Cervelli as he slid home. Plate umpire Dana DeMuth, who is also the crew chief, called him out.

Girardi came out to argue but needed no challenge because, under the new rules intended to minimize or eliminate home-plate collisions, the umpires automatically went in to watch a replay. After a brief delay, the call was upheld and the Yankees' first -- and it turned out, only -- scoring chance of the day had ended in an out.

Afterward, Girardi argued Thole had illegally blocked the plate, denying Cervelli a lane to home plate before he had possession of the ball. (A bigger issue was that replays showed Cervelli might actually have been safe, but that was apparently not addressed either by the manager or the umpires.) The umps ruled that Thole did nothing wrong.

OK. The problem is, however, no one involved in the play could effectively explain what the rule actually says or requires, and both Thole and Cervelli agreed that the rule, as written, is virtually impossible to follow in the heat of a game.

"Everything happens too fast," Cervelli said. "It's hard to know what to do."

"I don't even understand the rule, to be honest with you," Thole said. "I wasn't even aware that I gave him a lane to slide. I was just trying to catch the ball. It's really confusing."

Even Girardi, a former catcher, admitted the rule might be impractical to enforce.

"I think it's going to be extremely difficult," he said. "You're asking guys to change their instincts and what's normal for us [catchers]. That's why I think this play, of all the replays, this play you're going to have more controversy of any of them."

Expecting catchers, who have been trained since boyhood to block home plate, to not only look for a throw, watch the runner and rifle through the rulebook in their heads before setting their feet is a recipe for disaster. So is expecting baserunners barreling down the third-base line trying to score to alter their approach to the plate at the last second.

It's the ultimate "nanny state" mentality that will cause controversy rather than defuse it and could wind up causing injury rather than preventing it. If something can be well intended and at the same time ill conceived, this rule fits both descriptions.

"All I know is, it's a rule, and we got to follow it," Cervelli said.

Tough to do when you can't even explain what the rule is.

Not sorry: Alfonso Soriano, who has started this season 0-for-16 and had a crushing strikeout on a pitch that bounced in front of him with two runners on and the Jays clinging to a 1-0 lead in the eighth, says he thinks his at-bats have been pretty good so far.

"I had a couple of good contacts," he said. "Once I get my first hit, I'll be OK. I know who I am. The last couple years I started slow, but this has only been four games. It's not like I have to rush. I got plenty of time to recover. It's nothing to worry about. I feel more comfortable at home plate every day."

All true, but it might be a good idea to get a hit or two tomorrow before the Yankees return home Monday.

Not again! With their infield already hobbled by the injuries to Mark Teixeira and Brendan Ryan, the Yankees got another scare when Yangervis Solarte -- who had two more hits to maintain his early season average at .538 -- got nailed inside the right knee with a pitch from Aaron Loup in the seventh. At first, Solarte appeared to be hurt, but he jogged it off and stayed in the game. Girardi said he is "fine" but cautioned, "Let's see how he is tomorrow."
TORONTO -- On a normal night, Jacoby Ellsbury's three-hit, two-double, two stolen-base night would be back-page material. So would rookie Yangervis Solarte's three RBIs on a pair of doubles. How about Ichiro Suzuki, a Hall of Famer reduced to the role of bench player, going 3-for-5 and raising his early season batting average to .556?

But this was anything but a normal night, and, unfortunately for Ellsbury, Solarte and Ichiro, they finished in a triple dead heat for third-place money.

All three were overshadowed by Masahiro Tanaka's gutsy performance in his first major league start and the hamstring injury that might set Mark Teixeira down for a lengthy period of time.

Still, all three had nights worth mentioning, and, by the way, did I mention Ellsbury's sparkling sliding catch on Dioner Navarro's bloop to shallow center in the sixth?

"Obviously, I’ve had to see it from the other side a number of times," manager Joe Girardi said of Ellsbury. "He did everything tonight. He hit. He stole bases. He made a great catch in center field, and that’s why we went and got him, because that's what he's capable of doing. He’s a game-changer."

As for Solarte, he started the game at second and moved to third in the second inning when Teixeira was forced to leave and Kelly Johnson had to move from third to first.

"He's stepped in and done a really good job," Girardi said. "We saw it in spring training, but you never know what’s going to happen when the second and third deck get out there and the bright lights turn on and you’re in a big league game. But he has picked up right where he ended in spring training."

Dean Anna also made his first big league start tonight, going 1-for-4 with a walk and playing a solid shortstop in place of Derek Jeter, who had a scheduled day off. Anna made a sparkler of his own, ranging to his right to snag Adam Lind's grounder and spinning and firing to Teixeira for the out.

Super-sub: Johnson, who is not only the starting third baseman but also the emergency infielder at the three other positions, will now take over the first-base job until Teixeira comes back -- if it is soon -- or until the Yankees make a personnel move if Tex winds up on the disabled list, which seems likely.

Asked if he was prepared for the shift, Johnson said, "I'm going to have to be. Just like anything else, I'm going to get more comfortable as I play more over there."

Johnson also had two hits tonight, including a seventh-inning triple.

Tipping point: The Yankees teed off on Jays starter Dustin McGowan, with five hits in the first inning, and both McGowan and manager John Gibbons thought they knew why: They believe McGowan was tipping his pitches. "If he was, I didn't notice," said Ellsbury, who doubled and singled before McGowan was lifted in the third.

High-water mark: The Yankees had 16 hits tonight, the most of the brief season so far. Obviously.

Low voltage: The Yankees, sometimes known as The Bronx Bombers, have yet to hit a home run this season.

Solarte steals the show in first win

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4

HOUSTON --- Rookie Yangervis Solarte saw his name in a major league lineup for the first time in his life. Since he was a child, he has watched Derek Jeter play, so he did what any fan of the game might do. He picked up an extra lineup card and went to every starter, including Jeter, and asked them to autograph where their name appeared.

On a night when David Robertson succeeded Mariano Rivera for the first time, future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki made a case for more playing time, Jeter picked up his initial RBI in his final season and the Yankees won for the first time in 2014, Solarte stole the headlines by going 3-for-3 with an RBI, two runs scored and one nice stab on a liner at third. After it all, he might have grabbed himself some more playing time.

"I'll see what I'm going to do," Joe Girardi said when asked if he would play Solarte again Friday night in Toronto during Masahiro Tanaka's debut.

The Yankees signed Solarte as a minor league free agent from the Texas Rangers. Even without a spot on the 40-man roster, he beat out Eduardo Nunez by hitting .429. It is still very early, but he possibly could work himself into some time at third in a platoon with Kelly Johnson or if Brian Roberts were to get hurt at second.

[+] EnlargeSolarte
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsYangervis Solarte finished his first start 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored Thursday in Houston.
Right now, he is just soaking it all in. He made his debut Wednesday, pinch-hitting and grounding into a run scoring double play. At third that night, he was a little freaked out standing next to Jeter, who asked Solarte if he were nervous. Solarte said he wasn't. The perpetually joking-around Jeter replied by saying, he, even at 39, was nervous.

"Incredible," the 26-year-old Solarte said of being at third beside Jeter on Thursday. "It is someone I have seen since I was a child. And to be here today, with him, it is something that you don't accomplish every day."

Ichiro used to be an every day player, one of the all-time greatest hitters for batting average. But at 39, he has been relegated to a reserve who must take advantage of every opportunity he receives.

On Thursday, he picked up two hits, including a double. With Alfonso Soriano looking a little ragged at 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, Ichiro started to make a campaign for more time.

"When you are playing in the big leagues, there is never a game where there is no pressure, you are always under pressure," Ichiro said. "That is the same any time."

Starter Ivan Nova had no sharpness Thursday. His final spring training tune-up was rained out, putting rust on his stuff and perhaps resulting in his inconsistency Thursday.

"I was able to pitch with really one pitch," said Nova, who uncharacteristically didn't have his curveball.

He used four double plays and the end was set up for Robertson. Robertson has picked up saves in his career, but this was No. 1 post-No. 42. It was a 1-2-3 outing.

"It is nice to actually get a win for us," Robertson said. "I didn't have runners all over the place. I didn't make it too dramatic so that was a lot better."

The Yankees finally got started on the 2014 campaign, and with all the big, expensive names on this team, it was the most unfamiliar who was in the middle of it all.



Jacoby Ellsbury
.277 10 55 58
HRM. Teixeira 20
RBIJ. Ellsbury 55
RB. Gardner 77
OPSB. Gardner .788
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135