As strange as it feels to say out loud, Harrison Bader's injury made IKF's Opening Day role easier to envision. Before Bader went down, the Yankees were seeking only a left fielder, but were likely to turn the job over to Aaron Hicks, with Oswaldo Cabrera in relief. That left no room for anyone else from the infield logjam to potentially find their way to a new position. With DJ LeMahieu in a utility role, Kiner-Falefa was more likely to be a Rockies salary dump than a Yankee for the opener.
But all of a sudden, Bader's oblique injury changes the calculus. Now, Cabrera will probably take significant reps in center field, and it's hard to imagine him playing much infield early in the season.
Kiner-Falefa, too, has seen the light. According to a tidbit from MLB's Bryan Hoch, he's "transitioning" into a utility role this week by learning center field, too, and will start at the position in a spring game later this week.
He's reportedly learning from Nick Swisher, who decidedly did not play center. Which makes you wonder ... is this all just another Swish prank?
Yankees center fielder (???) Isiah Kiner-Falefa changes Opening Day roster
Add in Jose Trevino's mild wrist sprain and the fact that Kiner-Falefa has always been the Yankees' emergency catcher, and it seems clearer than ever he'll make the Opening Day roster.
As the 26th man, but still. His versatility now makes him an asset rather than a redundancy, and "IKF in the OF" suddenly sounds like a more serious plan than it did a few weeks back, when he was trying to get some facetime in left field.
Hoch provided video evidence of Kiner-Falefa working out on Tuesday, taking fly balls in center hours before Gerrit Cole mowed down the Blue Jays.
Kiner-Falefa will reportedly make his center field debut Friday against the Tigers, and spoke about how adding it "to his resume" could be helpful "if something happens and the team needs [him]."
Well, something did happen, and the team definitely seems to need him. But he shouldn't toss his catcher's gear away yet, either.