Mets, Yankees have fantasy wish lists in the field
With Mark Teixeira back on the disabled list, Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay can put away his outfielder's glove for now.
Overbay, you may recall, played four games in rightfield this month after not playing any position other than first in his initial 1,375 big-league appearances.
The Yankees wanted to keep Overbay's bat in the lineup. So he borrowed pitcher Boone Logan's outfield shagging glove and gave it the ol' college try.
Also this season, in emergencies, the Yankees have used outfielder Vernon Wells at third and second base. They have used a one-inning double-play combination of second baseman Robinson Cano at short and catcher Francisco Cervelli at second. And infielder Alberto Gonzalez pitched one-third of an inning in a blowout.
That got us thinking: What positions would some of New York's top players choose to play if they could? So we asked a dozen players -- seven Yankees and five Mets, six pitchers and six position players.
We had pitchers and infielders who want to play the outfield, an outfielder who wants to pitch, a catcher who wants to play the infield and a star pitcher who says he wants to catch.
There was one constant: The players' eyes all lit up when this subject was brought up. Even Ichiro Suzuki's interpreter seemed excited at the idea of Ichiro saying he wanted to . . . no, we'll wait to reveal that one.
This was presented to the players as pure fantasy -- not what positions they could play if needed, but a position they'd wish to play. Just for one day. It definitely brought out the little boys in them.
Some of the responses were predictable -- "You know my answer," fantasy centerfielder Mariano Rivera said -- and some weren't all that imaginative.
"Not that interesting," Mets third baseman David Wright said of his choice, shortstop, which he already has played twice as a big-leaguer in emergencies.
"I joke around with [Ruben] Tejada and [Justin] Turner and [Omar] Quintanilla all the time, saying I play out of position every day," the Mets captain said. "I should be the shortstop on this team."
Wright jokingly meant he should be the shortstop of the Mets, not just our fantasy team. On our team, he'd have to battle Teixeira and Mets outfielder Marlon Byrd for the position.
"Oh, man, I would want to play short," Teixeira said. "Because that's what I grew up playing. I played short until my senior year of high school. I loved playing short and I would definitely play there."
Teixeira said he even volunteered to move there in a pinch when he was with the Texas Rangers under manager Buck Showalter.
"Someone got hurt or something," Teixeira said. "I said, 'Hey, Buck, I can play short.' He's like, 'You're staying over there.' "
Byrd, 35, is a squat 6-2, 215 pounds. He looks more like a catcher than a shortstop, an opinion his high school coach apparently shared.
"I was a catcher growing up," Byrd said. "Played third base my senior year. I'm a bigger guy, so we always had the slick-fielding guys at shortstop. I was the guy that the ball was hit to me, hit me in the chest, pick it up and throw it. It was never pretty on the infield. It's just that glamour position, you know? It seems like the pretty position."
If shortstop is the pretty position, then centerfield must be gorgeous. That's what five of our players picked: Rivera, Bobby Parnell, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Cano.
No answers were out of leftfield -- or rightfield, for that matter -- because none of the players want to man a corner outfield spot.
"You want center," Mets closer Parnell said. "You want the wide range. I don't want to go up against the wall in foul territory. I want some grass out there."
The right side of the infield got short shrift, too, as none of the players chose first or second base. Pettitte figured he'd end up at first on this team despite his preference.
"Lefthanded and slow," the 41-year-old said. "There's only one place for you: on the pitcher's mound or first base. I would love to play centerfield. I just think that would be a great view of the game from out there and to be able to -- if I could run -- run some balls down, that would be fun."
Sabathia, who goes 6-7 and about 290 pounds, also admitted he doesn't see himself as a centerfielder in reality.
"But like a fantasy?" he said. "I would want to play centerfield. Something I could actually probably do? I guess it would be first base. But I would want to play center. It just seems like it would be fun."
Cano didn't cite fun as his reason for wanting to play center. He wants the challenge.
"When you play infield, you want to play something else," he said. "If I play shortstop or third base, you're going to get ground balls. That's the same thing. I always wanted to play shortstop and centerfield. Now that I've played shortstop, I'd like centerfield one day. I could do it for one day."
Cano said he would volunteer to play center if the Yankees were shorthanded, though he didn't know if manager Joe Girardi would accept his offer. Girardi already has turned down one star player's offer to switch positions this season.
Before Gonzalez got an out in the Yankees' 12-2 loss to the Mariners on May 15, Ichiro volunteered to pitch.
"Ever since I was little, I was a pitcher," Ichiro said. "I pitched in high school and even when I was in Japan playing in the big leagues there, I pitched in an All-Star game, just for one out. I think you kind of dream about that, especially being on a major-league mound is something that I dreamed about. I did tell them that I would do it. But at the end, they decided not to use me."
Speaking of not using someone, Mets brass probably will fall over when they learn Matt Harvey's fantasy position is catcher.
"I would be a catcher," Harvey said intensely. "That's my favorite. I've always loved catching."
Asked if he thinks the Mets ever would allow that, Harvey said: "No, I do not."
Mets catcher John Buck -- after saying he would never move off catcher because he's a "control freak" -- grudgingly agreed to try third base if he had to move.
"I want to be on the hot corner," he said. "If we're going to go fantasy, I want the whole kit and caboodle. I just like making those fast-reaction plays and being able to show off your arm. That's always cool, when you make a diving play and throw from your knees. Just grabs me."
Another third-base devotee: Joba Chamberlain (who was not asked if he'd rather be a starter or reliever).
"Oooh, third base," Chamberlain said. "I played it growing up and it's just the instinct -- you've got to make the play. It's fun."
Face it, though: Every position on the baseball field is fun. The reality is these guys already are living out their fantasies on a daily basis.
"We're all baseball players," Teixeira said. "We've all played every position in our lives. I've caught as a kid. I've pitched as a kid. I've played every position in my life in some point in time. Your natural instinct wherever you are is to just go play baseball."