BALTIMORE -- What did it take to get Rob Refsnyder into Friday night’s lineup against the Orioles? Not the two hits in Thursday night’s win over the Tigers, the two runs scored, or the go-ahead RBI in what felt like the Yankees’ most important victory to date.
Nope. Those were shrugged off. Joe Girardi went back to status quo for the series opener at Camden Yards, again relying on the same misfiring group that got the Yankees into this mess in the first place.
Not that we expected anything different. Girardi remains adamant that his regulars eventually will hit and that he has no choice but to keep penciling them in.
But on this night, other forces intervened to get Refsnyder onto the field, in the most unlikely plot of real estate. When Mark Teixeira’s right knee “locked up,” according to Girardi, the manager told Refsnyder to replace him at first base, a position he had been taking grounders at for only a few days during pregame batting practice.
As for the first baseman’s mitt, it was a loaner from Dustin Ackley, who had surgery for a torn labrum earlier that same afternoon.
A few hours earlier, Girardi basically said he had no intention of using Refsnyder at first, only because it was impossible to prep him sufficiently with such limited reps.
But that all changed in a hurry. Teixeira’s injury opened the door for Refsnyder because of a few other extenuating circumstances. Austin Romine, a more preferable backup, already was behind the plate. And Brian McCann, as we discovered before the game, was unavailable because of a hyperextended left elbow. Apparently, Girardi wasn’t ready to reprise Carlos Beltran’s awkward cameo from a few years back.
To think that Refsnyder was the best remaining option, at a completely new position for him, probably would have been funny to Girardi if not for the fact that the manager is hardly in the mood for levity these days. Those searching for a silver lining can note that Refsnyder fielded the position cleanly in an otherwise dismal 6-5 loss, one in which the Yankees blew a 5-2 lead.
“He did fine,” Girardi said.
At the plate, Refsnyder went 0-for-3 and also was thrown out trying to take second on a throwing error by Manny Machado. The baserunning gaffe came on the heels of back-to-back homers by Beltran and Alex Rodriguez and turned out to be a bit of a momentum-killer when Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius followed with singles.
Of course, Teixeira is hitting .180, so what’s the difference, really?
Another injury, this one possibly more serious than his previous neck spasms, might be a blessing in disguise for Teixeira, who’s been struggling so badly that a DL stint might help clear his head. The Yankees described the knee condition as “discomfort” and had him sent for an MRI in the middle of Friday night’s game. By the time the clubhouse cleared later that night, the team still had no update on Teixeira’s condition.
“What he’s dealing with now is different from what he had before,” Girardi said. “It wasn’t locking up.”
If Teixeira does need to go on the DL, it seems inevitable that Nick Swisher or Chris Parmelee — the only experienced first basemen in the upper rungs of the organization — would get a call-up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi was pressed into using Refsnyder for Friday night’s emergency but we can’t see him willingly doing that on a regular basis, especially against righthanded pitching.
“If that’s what Joe needs, that’s what I’ll do,” Refsnyder said.
His response was more enthusiastic than the one we got from McCann, who wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of going out there in his current condition. Frankly, he’s never been totally cool with playing there anyway.
While it’s true that Teixeira’s offensive production has been terrible, losing him Friday was just another example of this season going sideways on the Yankees, who watched Dellin Betances surrender a run for the third straight appearance. This time it decided the game, one the Yankees let slip away despite three homers.
“It’s frustrating,” said Brett Gardner, who delivered a two-fisted slam of his helmet after getting thrown out trying to steal. “Our goal is to win every series and it’s getting to the point where we can’t afford to lose any games. [Saturday] is an important game for us.”
As for who’s playing in it, that’s anyone’s guess at the moment.