On an aging team, such as the 2014 New York Yankees, the DH position is generally reserved to give players a rest from playing the field while still keeping their bat in the lineup. This season several older veterans such as Derek Jeter (39), Alfonso Soriano (38), Carlos Beltran (36), and Mark Teixeira (33) all figure to see substantial playing time as the designated hitter. This will create a daily line-up conundrum for Girardi because he will only be able to DH one guy per game.
Alfonso Soriano would normally be penciled in to get the majority of the Yankees’ DH duties. He is after all, a 38-year-old power hitter whose age has limited his already suspect fielding capabilities. He is coming off a monster season in which he smacked 34 home runs and drove in 101 runs between the Cubs and Yankees, with the bulk of those numbers coming in pinstripes. The issue arises due to the fact the DH spot will need to be used for other Yankees who need a day, which would potentially take Soriano’s potent bat out of the lineup.
Jeter made 25 starts at DH in 2012 and as he returns from his injury-plagued 2013 season, it seems fair to state that he will make at least that many starts (and probably more) at DH in 2014. Girardi knows Jeter will not be happy riding the pine for many games in his last summer in the big leagues. Beltran and his aging, achy knees will need days off as well. That will result in Soriano or Ichiro manning right field. Of course, Soriano has played exactly zero games in the majors in right field. Teixeira figures into the DH conversation as well as he recovers from a serious wrist injury that wrecked his 2013. It remains to be seen who will play first on a day where Teixeira DHs. Soriano briefly took reps at first base this spring before the plan was trashed.
Soriano has shown how productive his bat can be in the Yankee lineup, so Girardi needs to find a spot for him every day. In addition, Alfonso Soriano has expressed a willingness to do whatever he can to help the team. He has not complained about his uncertain spot in the lineup or being relegated to DH, a position he has never played more than 13 times in a season. He has tried his hand at first base to attempt to be more versatile. He just wants to play baseball.
Girardi will need to walk a careful line throughout the season. He needs to rest his aging roster while still putting the lineup with the best possible chance to win on the field every night. Soriano’s spot in the lineup will figure to be the biggest wild card and will change nearly everyday.