Chase Headley is learning a new position and faces challenges to his playing time. That’s happened to others, but what’s unusual is the 11-year veteran’s willingness to accept the changes without any detectable resentment.
On a day when Headley had three hits, including a home run, in the Yankees’ 5-1 victory over the Red Sox, not one question was asked about his day at the plate. It was all about Headley’s ability to endure what could be called punches to his self-esteem.
When he arrived from the White Sox in July, Todd Frazier promptly proclaimed that his best position was third base. So Headley was sent to first base, and despite his inexperience there, he has been solid defensively.
Now Greg Bird is back and Headley, who started at third Saturday, will have to keep hitting to fend off Frazier, who has not hit for average but is a better defensive player at third and has more power. At the same time, Headley must remain prepared to play first based on matchups or if Bird doesn’t hit.
“I think at this point in my career, winning’s the most important thing,’’ Headley said. “One thing about this organization, nobody is bigger than the team. If you buy into that, I think you can maybe let the emotional side out of it a little bit, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. I certainly want to contribute. I certainly want to play every day, but I want to win more than any of that.’’
Said Joe Girardi, “I’m going to have to find ways to keep him in the lineup. I’ll be able to do that. I’m not worried about that . . . He’ll play [Sunday night] somewhere, he’s one of the guys that’s had success off of [Chris] Sale, and I’ll get him back in there.’’
Since July 20, when Headley was sent to first, he has hit .328 (42-for-128) with 10 doubles, six homers and 16 RBIs. Despite hitting .165 in May, Headley is batting .278 for the season.
Frazier replaced Headley at third in the ninth inning Saturday. By then, Headley had his 10th home run and two singles.
Headley has no issues with how he is being used and said he told Girardi: “I’ll do whatever you need me to do. I want to play, I want to be in there as much as I can, but I understand the situation, so however you feel like you need to use me, then I’ll be ready.
“I think any time a trade happens, you’re surprised. When it initially happened, I didn’t know what that entailed. Whether he’s going to be playing first, whether he’s going to be playing third, so you really didn’t know what to think, but it didn’t matter. I thought he made us a better team, and that’s what we’re about.’’
Headley will enter the final year of his contract next season. Frazier, a pending free agent, isn’t likely to return, but Headley could face competition at third from top infield prospect Gleyber Torres, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his left (non-throwing) elbow.
Headley isn’t concerned about that yet. “I got nothing on that right now, man,’’ he said. “That’s a long ways away.’’