3/12/14, "Top Yankee Hitter So Far? He’s Fighting for a Job,
" NY Times, Peter Kerasotis, Tampa, Fla.
blanketed the stadium as
the ballplayer arrived at 6:30 a.m. He is
usually the first Yankee in the clubhouse, where his locker sits across
the aisle from Derek Jeter, maybe five feet away. It might as well be
Among the crowded cluster of names competing for a Yankees
infield job, Yangervis Solarte is not one who jumps out.
But the numbers he has produced this spring have.
hitting a single and
working a walk in his two at-bats Wednesday,
Solarte continues to have the Yankees’ highest batting average (.632),
the highest slugging percentage (.947) and the highest on-base
percentage (.682). He has the most runs scored (7) and most hits (12)
and is tied for most total bases (18). He also has two home runs, one
behind the team leader Francisco Cervelli, who has three after homering
twice against Detroit in a 10-inning game that ended in a 7-7 tie.
numbers are real, but
they are on a March 12 statistics sheet. A lot of
spring training remains, with a lot more jockeying to be done to see
who plays second and third base, and who will be Jeter’s primary backup
these are the types of gifts that unwrap themselves on sunny March
days, when someone who is a household name only in his own house
suddenly commands the spotlight. Whether Solarte continues to do so is a
question waiting for an answer. So far, he has put up the right numbers
at the right time, and for the right team.
played well,” said Manager Joe Girardi, who still has not named a
starting second or third baseman. “All our utility guys have played
really, really well. But Solarte gives you a lot of options because he’s
a switch-hitter and he can play anywhere in the infield. He can play
were the first team to contact me,” he said through an interpreter,
adding that 12 other organizations expressed interest. “The Yankees were
. They were in constant communication. They showed that
they wanted me.”
Wednesday’s game, Solarte was surprised to learn that he was not just
statistically ahead of the other Yankees’ hitters, but way ahead. “I
didn’t know,” he said. “But I really don’t want to know. I don’t want
anything to change my approach.”
The same goes with getting feedback from Girardi. Solarte said he had not gotten any, and does not want any. “Positive
or negative, it’s better for me not to know,” he said. “I don’t want it
to affect my preparation, dictate the way I train. I just want to keep
he does, arriving early, practicing, training, spending extra time in
the batting cages beneath Steinbrenner Field, looking for any way to
finally make it to the major leagues.
a switch-hitter who occasionally
displays power from both sides of the
plate, Solarte has played professionally since 2006, in both the
Minnesota Twins’ and Texas Rangers’ organizations. He said the Rangers
told him last season he was going to get a late-season call-up, but the
call never came.
“I don’t want to play in the minors anymore,” he said.
played his past two years
in the Pacific Coast League, for the Class
AAA Round Rock (Texas) Express, batting .288 with 11 homers in 2012, and
.276 with 12 homers last season. His error tally has been high, though —
16 two years ago and 12 last year.
when he arrives in the early morning hours at Steinbrenner Field,
defense is a special area of work, and this spring, he has played
second, third, shortstop and outfield.
work ethic recently caught the attention of Carlos Beltran, who has
provided a bit of mentoring. Beltran now gives Solarte the same advice
that Solarte’s uncle, the former Met Roger Cedeño, gives him: Continue
to work hard.
a good, talented player,
you can see it,” Beltran said. “To me, he’s a
true switch-hitter, a guy who can do some damage from both sides of the
plate. I think he has the tools to play at this level, and you can see
him fighting for the opportunity. He comes early, goes to the weight
room, works hard, and that’s good. I tell him to keep doing that, keep
letting everyone know that you want to be here, that you want to work,
that you have a good attitude. At the end of the day, that’s so
important. He listens.”
Girardi finally got to
test baseball’s new challenge rule, asking for a
replay review on a bang-bang play at first base in the seventh inning.
The replay showed that Brian Roberts was clearly out,
admitted that had the same groundout occurred during the regular season,
he probably would not have challenged it. ... Hiroki Kuroda had a rough
outing, surrendering 10 hits in three and two-thirds innings, giving up
six earned runs. “He was off with off-speed pitches, which is really
not that unusual this time of year,” Girardi said. “That’s what pitchers
are trying to find. They’re trying to find a feel. His off-speed stuff
wasn’t that sharp, and that’s why he got hit.” ... A Yankees split-squad
team will leave for Panama for two games against Miami after Thursday’s
game against Baltimore.
The Yankees also have a split-squad team
playing against Philadelphia on Thursday in Clearwater, Fla." image Barton Silverman
, NY Times