While some early speculation in the wake of the departure of Robinson Cano involved a move back to second base for Alfonso Soriano, it now appears that the slugger may be spending some time to the left of second in the Yankee infield in 2014. Soriano has apparently brought a first baseman’s glove to spring training and has been participating in drills at first.
The Yankees have not named a backup first baseman. One of the more important developments we will see across the rest of Spring Training will be who will be Mark Teixeira’s backup. A backup that could find himself getting quite a bit of playing time as Teixeira works his way back from a severe wrist injury that sidelined him for most of the 2013 season. It stands to reason that the 34 year old Teixeira will be getting a good share of DH days and days off throughout the season and someone will need to play first.
Kelly Johnson and now Alfonso Soriano have both spent time this Spring Training taking drills and practicing at first base. Neither can expect to wow fans with their defensive prowess but neither can really be expected to be a regular backup for first. Both of them already figure to playing elsewhere in the field; Johnson has been named the Opening Day starter at third base and Soriano will split time with Carlos Beltran in the outfield and at DH.
Brian McCann would also figure to be an option to backup at first but despite his statements saying he is open to playing first, he has never played there in an MLB game. Manager Joe Girardi, a former catcher, has also expressed reluctance in the past to play his catcher’s at other positions, including DH, on their days off. Girardi’s thinking being that catchers require a “true” day off instead of a half day and fears being forced to use an “emergency” catcher should an injury pop up.
It is possible that a non-roster invitee such as Russ Canzler, Corban Joseph or Yangervis Solarte (who has really opened a lot of eyes with a strong camp) may be able to steal the final spot on the 25 man roster from someone like Eduardo Nunez. The Yankee organization has really soured on Nunez after his failure to progress in recent seasons. His bat has not developed in the way they hoped and his defense has been unseemly at best. This would be a great chance for Solarte to finally make The Show. He has had a great camp and impressed with his bat, hitting for power and with his glove making great plays across the infield. While he does not have much experience at first, neither do any of the options currently being considered.
The Yankees could also look outside the organization as Opening Day approaches. This would be similar to the strategy that they imposed last season when they signed Lyle Overbay just before breaking camp. However, unless Teixeira suffers a setback in his comeback, one can expect the Yankees to try and get as much versatility from the players they currently have on the roster. This may yield some awkward moments in the field, but that would be nothing new with the Yankees. One can quickly conjure images of Vernon Wells and Francisco Cervelli playing second base last year or Gary Sheffield at first base in 2006.