OAKLAND, Calif.—The question was inevitable. So was the answer.
Rob Refsnyder had the big hit Saturday, proving that on this day, at least, he deserved to be on the Yankees. But not unexpectedly, the present seemed less important than the future — the immediate future.
Refsnyder was in a Yankees uniform, five days removed from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, because Alex Rodriguez, on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, could not be.
The history of baseball is filled with tales of men who, given the chance, make something of it. With his two-run double in the fourth in his first major-league action of the season, Refsnyder definitely did that, helping the Yankees earn a 5-1 victory over the Oakland A’s.
Manager Joe Girardi praised Refsnyder’s 10-pitch at-bat and how he fouled off three 3-and-2 pitches from lefty Sean Manaea before driving the ball on one hop off the right-centerfield wall. Then, when someone wondered if there is any way Refsnyder can stay when A-Rod returns from the injury, Girardi was quick and noncommittal.
“I’ll worry about that,” he said, “when A-Rod comes back.”
At the moment, Girardi has few other worries. The Yankees have won four in a row, including the first three games of this four-game series against the A’s.
He still has to figure out where to play the 25-year-old Refsnyder, who was an outfielder at the University of Arizona but has been shifted to second and third in the minor leagues. On Saturday, he was back in right.
“He’s moved around,” Girardi said, “and he was up last year and played well the month of September.”
Refsnyder was 13-for-43 (.302) in 16 games last season but wound up back in Triple-A this spring.
He was satisfied with Saturday’s success. He was 1-for-3, lining out in his first at-bat—not unimpressive after sitting, either on a plane or a dugout bench, for the better part of a week — and also grounding out.
“His first pitches went terribly fast,” Refsnyder said of Manaea, a rookie. “I hadn’t been playing, but I had been working with AC [batting coach Alan Cockrell] and the other coaches. I was hoping to get a pitch over the middle. It was nice to be able to contribute.”
Refsnyder, taken in the fifth round of the 2012 first-year player draft, has been watched with high expectations. He was going to be the Yankees’ third baseman or second baseman, learning along the way. Fans had waited. Management had waited.
“You try not to let it affect you,” Refsnyder said when asked if the defensive changes left him confused at the plate as well as in the infield. “I’ve had good coaching. And like the cliché, I try to go about it one pitch at a time.”
He doesn’t know if he’ll be in the lineup Sunday against righthander Jesse Hahn or even on the team when Rodriguez does get activated, probably Tuesday.
“My job is to come prepared,” Refsnyder said, “and help the team in any way I can.”