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Lyle Overbay getting a little more comfortable in rightfield, likes the challenge

Yankees' Lyle Overbay runs down a foul ball

Yankees' Lyle Overbay runs down a foul ball in right field during the second inning against the Cleveland Indians. (June 3, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

SEATTLE -- Lyle Overbay hasn't taken to rightfield to the extent that he says he's absolutely comfortable there.

That, of course, is understandable. Before Monday night, the career first baseman and designated hitter had never played the outfield in his major-league career.

But that's not to say the 36-year-old, who did not start Thursday night after starting three straight games in rightfield against the Indians at Yankee Stadium, isn't enjoying the position switch.

"I could be sitting at home. They could have easily [gone] another route,'' Overbay said Thursday night. "I understood that. If they're not willing to put me in the outfield, they have to keep another outfielder. And that leaves me out of the mix.''

That was the situation Monday when Andy Pettitte was activated from the disabled list and the Yankees had to make a roster move. Wanting to hold on to Overbay's productive bat -- not to mention his glove, in the event that Mark Teixeira, just off the disabled list, reinjured his wrist -- the Yankees asked Overbay how he felt about rightfield (and sent Brennan Boesch to Triple-A).

Overbay, initially caught by surprise, was all in, confident that he would be OK in an unfamiliar position.

"I never doubted myself,'' said Overbay, who will see work at first base when Teixeira gets a day off or is the DH. "I have a lot more trust in myself now. If I was a rookie and I was trying to do this, I'd probably be a nervous wreck. I wouldn't have that much confidence. Now I can relax.''

Third-base coach Rob Thomson, who also coaches the outfielders, thought Overbay's athleticism could translate, and the idea was fleshed out in a Sunday night meeting that included Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman.

Overbay hasn't exactly been tested, fielding one fly ball cleanly in each of his three starts.

He said one ball hit by Michael Bourn, a quick-sinking liner in the second game of the Indians series, threw him a bit.

"Those are the ones that are hard to judge,'' said Overbay, who entered Thursday night hitting .251 with eight homers and 29 RBIs this season.

He said his first reaction was that Bourn hit the ball better than he really had, and his mind told him to get moving backward. He took a step back, almost immediately reconsidered that first impression and made the catch by basically staying put.

"It ended up canceling each other out,'' a smiling Overbay said of the dueling narratives in his head. "So it worked out.''

He said the challenges of the position -- judging fly balls off the bat, hitting the cutoff man, reading balls on the ground, to name a few -- are numerous. He's tried to keep things as simple as he can, and the Yankees have encouraged that.

"They're not looking for a Gold Glover there, but I expect to get out there and do those little things too,'' Overbay said. "Those little things could be big things. I've seen how a missed cutoff or a missed play can cost you and I want to make sure I don't do that.''

With far more expansive rightfields (compared to Yankee Stadium) on this trip -- notably at Seattle's Safeco Field and Oakland's Coliseum -- Girardi said Overbay probably won't see as much time in the outfield. But he'll see some.

"I probably wouldn't use him as much as I would at home,'' Girardi said. "But I think you still have to keep him involved.''


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