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Yankees' Kelly Johnson ready to play anywhere

Kelly Johnson works out at the Yankees' minor

Kelly Johnson works out at the Yankees' minor league facility in Tampa, Fla. on Feb. 12, 2014, prior to the official start of Spring Training. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. - He very well could be The Man Who Replaced A-Rod.

Then again, he could be The Man Who Replaced Robinson Cano.

Then again, maybe neither of those.

Or some combination.

He's Kelly Johnson, the 32-year-old utility infielder signed this offseason by the Yankees, who dramatically, and expensively, addressed outfield and pitching needs but continue their quest for infield help.

That uncertainty is the reason Yankees pro scouts are under instruction to scour the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues for infielder options. Finding bullpen depth also is on the scouts' to-do list.

Those questions are also why the Yankees can't be ruled out from signing shortstop Stephen Drew, whose agent, Scott Boras, has said would consider playing another position, such as third base. Boras, who represents outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, whom the Yankees signed to a seven-year, $153 million deal over the winter, has kept in touch with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.

"A developing story'' is how general manager Brian Cashman described the Yankees' infield situation.

Another personnel man used another description.

"Scary,'' he said, not meaning scary-good.

As of now, the starting job at third is Johnson's to lose, although Joe Girardi has said Johnson, who started at third for the Yankees Tuesday in their exhibition opener against Florida State, could be part of a platoon. Such an arrangement might include the righthanded- hitting Eduardo Nuñez or Scott Sizemore.

"That's nothing I can control,'' said the amiable Johnson, who hit .235 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in 118 games for the Rays last season. "I'm prepared to play every day and that's my goal. You do your preparation and that's what you can control. If your name's in the lineup, go get 'em. If not, go about your work and be ready to come in. In this game in this day and age, there's more opportunity to get in the game from the bench than there used to be.''

Johnson discovered that last season when Rays manager Joe Maddon looked to give third baseman Evan Longoria's sore right foot an occasional break and turned his way.

Johnson, who previously played leftfield and second base but never at third, ended up playing 16 games there, starting 12.

"I've been in the game a few years and you take some things from guys,'' Johnson said. "Now it's just a matter of getting work on a consistent basis, but you need the game speed and the game reps.''

Johnson said watching Longoria, a Gold Glove third baseman, helped him last season, and this spring he's picked up tips from infield coach Mick Kelleher as well as from instructors Willie Randolph and Jody Reed.

But as much attention as Johnson has paid to third base, he very well could be needed at second, where Brian Roberts, beset by injuries the last four years, is slated as the starter.

Johnson has played 809 games at second, 132 in left, 16 at third and three at first.

He said he's ready for anything.

"More opportunity to get on the field and get in the lineup is the way I see it,'' Johnson said. "Whatever [position] they write in there, I'll go catch the ball.''


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