PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Contrary to the occasionally obsessive coverage, the battle to see who will back up Chase Headley at third base is not a one-man competition involving Rob Refsnyder.
“There’s a lot of guys,” Joe Girardi said before Saturday’s game against the Rays.
Refsnyder, a second-base prospect with a live bat but without a true position in the field, according to many scouts, made his second start of spring training at third base Saturday. The 24-year-old, who had never played third before, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout but hit two balls hard that turned into groundouts. He did not have any fielding chances in his six innings.
So who are the other options?
Girardi mentioned former Cardinals utilityman Pete Kozma, former Marlins utilityman Donovan Solano, Jonathan Diaz — who played 30 games the last two seasons with the Blue Jays and can play third base, shortstop and second base — and Ronald Torreyes, who appeared in eight games with the Dodgers last season and can play second and third.
“That’s a big competition,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of guys in that competition that we have to look at over the next three weeks.”
Girardi said sooner rather than later, he’ll have to start eliminating players from consideration.
“Probably a couple of weeks, you try to whittle it down some and make your decision,” he said. “Because you have to give them reps. You have to figure it out.”
It is not out of the realm of possibility — and some believe it’s the likely end result — that the Yankees’ backup third baseman isn’t yet in camp, that he’ll arrive as a castoff from another team or as a late-camp acquisition via trade.
“I don’t ever think that,” Girardi said. “It’s kind of like the trade deadline. I have to deal with what we have here. I’m not worried about what’s outside our organization.”
Of the aforementioned players, the 27-year-old Kozma has the most experience, having played a combined 275 games over the last five seasons for the Cardinals, who chose the infielder 18th overall in the 2007 draft. Two opposing team talent evaluators recently said the vibe they’ve gotten from the Yankees is that Kozma, if healthy, could be the favorite. Kozma did miss the first couple of weeks of camp with a herniated disc but returned to the field earlier in the week.
Ackley nicked up
Backup first baseman and second baseman Dustin Ackley was scheduled to start Saturday’s game at second, but Girardi kept him back in Tampa.
“Quad [was] a little tight,” Girardi said. “He played [Friday] with it so I said, ‘It’s silly for you to travel.’ He said he was OK.”
Girardi categorized Ackley as day-to-day.
Rays rightfielder Corey Dickerson was forced from the game in the fifth inning after taking a fastball from James Pazos on his left forearm. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash told reporters it was a “bruise.” He expects Dickerson to DH Sunday.