Yangervis Solarte has no idea why baseball has turned on him so hard -- how the rookie, who all but saved the Yankees offense in his first two months, seemingly had the game change on him overnight sometime around mid-May.
"The first two months were really nice and then this last month, oh my God," he said after his 0-for-4, two strikeout performance Wednesday in the 6-3 loss to the basement-dwelling Tampa Bay Rays. "I don't feel different . . . I've been doing a lot of extra work. I go to the cage early, even when I don't play. But with every at-bat I know I need to make an adjustment."
Here are the 'this-last-month-oh-my-God' numbers: In the last 28 days, Solarte has gone 7-for-50, a .140 average. He hasn't had an extra-base hit since a June 8 double against the Royals, and has seen his average dip from .336 on May 14, to .260, as of Wednesday.
It partially has to do with tough breaks -- Solarte's BABIP, batting average on balls put in play, was a paltry .192 in the month of June, and his strikeout percentage that month was actually slightly lower (12.7) than it was during March and April (13.5), when he hit .303.
But the concern with Solarte now becomes twofold:
With the Yankees swooning under .500, how long can they have him in the starting lineup?
And will Solarte, who showed his worth earlier this season, be mentally affected by the recent struggles?
"You worry about young kids," Girardi said. Though he didn't offer up any information on Solarte's future role, he added that, "of course you [worry]. I've been in that situation and I know what it feels like, so it's our job to keep him up."
Wednesday, Solarte struck out his first at-bat, hit an infield fly in the fourth, but smacked a well-hit liner to left that went as an out in the sixth inning. He struck out swinging in his final at bat.
Solarte, for his part, said he refused to get frustrated or let his confidence get too low. At 26, he said he's learned his lesson: "You can't be like that."
"I go to the cage and work on my routine every day," he said. "I don't want to think too much and do my routine."
He reiterated that he needed to make adjustments, but later clarified that he meant his approach, not his mechanics. "Everything's the same," he said. "I don't know what happened. Just swing, hit the ball and whatever happens, happens. I need to change maybe my focus."
Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long pretty much supported Solarte on that front. "When Solarte was swinging the bat well he was very aggressive and he was swinging with authority," he said. "He's just a little bit in between, a little bit unsure. We looked at his video. He's a little hard to his front side and he's a little tentative."
Despite the promising start, after all, Solarte is still very much the rookie, and "someone like that will probably put a little more pressure on himself than a veteran would," Long said. "We'll just stay at it."
With Jim Baumbach