Like what you’ve seen so far from Kelly Johnson at third? So have many within the Yankees organization. Early in the morning several times a week, Johnson has worked with first base coach Mick Kelleher, in their efforts to construct a new pinstriped third baseman. Johnson, who has primarily been a second baseman, is somewhat of a rookie to the position, having only played 16 games in his career at third.
Johnson is expected to play the hot corner most of the time, as the Yankees seek to replace the suspended Alex Rodriguez. He has impressed many in the Yankees organization with his spring play so far, including Kelleher, and manager Joe Girardi. “I think he’s going to do a good job,” Girardi said Monday. “I’ve liked what he’s done. I don’t really have a lot of concerns about it.”
It’s extremely comforting for a team with already so many infield questions, to know that Johnson is adjusting well to the position. Johnson’s progress hasn’t come easily though. As Kelleher notes, third is a demanding position, perhaps intimidating, even for someone who has played as much infield as Johnson. The 32-year-old Johnson has played 809 of his 960 games in the majors at second. All of his third-base experience came last year. “It’s a tough transition,” said Kelleher, a big-league infielder from 1972-82 for five teams.
Kelleher and the Yankees know Johnson is still a work in progress, but with the way he’s played so far, plus the potential for Johnson to get even better, it’s hard not to get too confident. The signing of Johnson to a 1-year $3 million deal back in December with the intention of him playing third, due to the Yankees’ anticipation that Rodriguez would be suspended, has worked out to perfection thus far. So for now at least, the Yankees feel third base is in good hands.