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Yankees prospect Ronnier Mustelier misses son after defecting from Cuba

Yankees' Ronnier Mustelier hitting a single in the

Yankees' Ronnier Mustelier hitting a single in the bottom of the 3rd inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in a pre-season game during spring training at George Steinbrenner Field, FLa. (Feb. 24, 2013). Credit: Newsday J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Ronnier Mustelier is motivated to make the Yankees, and it's something far more significant than merely earning a berth on an MLB roster for the first time.

The 28-year-old defected from Cuba in 2009 in a boat filled with 20 people, leaving his son and parents behind. Mustelier has not seen his 5-year-old son, Ronny Jr., since defecting.

"It's a very difficult time, especially because I'm missing out on him growing up," said Mustelier, signed by the Yankees for $50,000 in 2011. "But it's part of the sacrifice that I'm doing. And I'm doing all of this specifically for him."

Young outfielders in the system such as Mustelier, Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa suddenly found themselves with an unexpected chance to make the team when Curtis Granderson was lost for 10 weeks with a broken right forearm.

Each of the trio has shown some ability -- Mustelier and Almonte with their bats and Mesa, who recently decided not to play for the Dominican team in the World Baseball Classic, with his glove. "You can never be happy about someone's misery, especially another ballplayer," said Almonte, 23, who can play all three outfield spots. "But it is something that happens. And I do know there's an opportunity now."

The 5-10, 210-pound Mustelier has been described as a player without a position, but don't tell him that. "I don't care about my size or all these things people are saying about me," he said. "The only thing I care about is I'm a good player and I can get the job done and I have a place on this team."

One opposing team scout agrees, comparing the fire plug-like Mustelier to Ronnie Belliard -- a 5-9, 210-pound utilityman who enjoyed a 13-year career that ended in 2010 -- but with a better bat. "I can play the field, I can play the outfield, I can play the infield," Mustelier said. "So if anyone is saying I have no position, that's not true."


Next step for HughesPhil Hughes, out nearly two weeks with two bulging discs in his upper back, is scheduled to throw a flat-ground session Sunday. "It's all-go right now," Joe Girardi said. "Unless something comes up."


The woundedCenterfield prospect Slade Heathcott didn't escape unscathed from Thursday's outfield collision with Mustelier after all. Girardi said he suffered a sprained right thumb and will be "re-evaluated in a few days." Girardi also said Boone Logan, who had been on a slower pace after working a career-high 80 games last season, was scratched from a batting-practice session with a "tender" elbow. Girardi said an MRI came back clean and that the lefthander will rest for a "few days."


Daley still positiveThe Yankees reassigned nine players to minor-league camp, including Garden City High graduate Matt Daley, 30, a righty reliever trying to make his way back from labrum surgery in 2011. "It was a really good meeting," Daley said after talking with Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. "They want me to go and build my arm strength back to where it was . . . Both of them said, if you do what you're supposed to do, there's going to be opportunities for you. That's what I was happy about, to hear that from them." Daley allowed no runs and a hit with four strikeouts in three appearances.

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