As if the New York Yankees' middle infield situation wasn't difficult enough to figure out, Yangervis Solarte has plans to make it even harder.
The question marks surrounding the entire Yankees infield have already been well documented this spring. Mark Teixeira might not be able to stay healthy at first base, and the team has no immediate backup plans. Brian Roberts and Derek Jeter are also injury risks at second base and shortstop, respectively.
Kelly Johnson isn't necessarily a candidate to be bitten by the injury bug over at the hot corner, but nobody knows what to expect from him in terms of production in 2014.
As far as reserves go, the Yankees have a ton of options—none of whom have set themselves apart from the pack. Brendan Ryan, Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Scott Sizemore are all competing for time in camp.
Solarte, a non-roster invitee, has thrown himself into the discussion as a result of a fantastic start to the spring. The 26-year-old is hitting .692/.733/1.154 with two home runs and six RBI in 13 at-bats. Simply put, Solarte is raking.
That was Yangervis Solarte’s 7th hit in 8 AB – batting .875 this spring has played in five games; Fun fact: He is Roger Cedeño’s nephew— Marly~ESPN Deportes (@MarlyRiveraESPN) March 5, 2014
Through an interpreter, Solarte told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that he is focused on making the team out of camp:
I don't even want to mention the word 'Triple-A' at this moment. My dream is to play in the Majors. I got very hurt when I did not get called up to the Majors last year, so I feel that I can't get my heart broken like that again.
Solarte was expecting a September call-up from the Texas Rangers last season. It never came. His numbers were certainly deserving of recognition. In 133 games in Triple-A in 2013, Solarte swatted 12 home runs and drove in 75.
The versatile infielder can play second, third, short and even left field. Short is where he feels most comfortable, writes Hoch, but he appears willing to play anywhere if it means a spot on a big league roster.
Assuming Solarte continues taking advantage of pitching in the Grapefruit League, manager Joe Girardi will have to spend serious time deciding where he fits in the team's plans.
Roberts is the starting second baseman, and Dean Anna appears to have the inside track as the next option out of the minors if (or when) Roberts hits the disabled list. After all, Anna led the Pacific Coast League with a .331 batting average last season.
If Jeter hits the DL, then the Yankees could choose to bring up Solarte to play in a platoon role with either Ryan or Nunez. Then it will just be a matter of playing the hot hand.
When will Solarte make the Yankees?
Should Teixeira get injured, Girardi could switch Johnson to first and move Nunez to third. In this scenario, Solarte could still be called up to platoon with Nunez at the hot corner.
Realistically speaking, it's hard to see Solarte making this team out of camp (barring an injury, of course). He's unproven as a big leaguer, but that doesn't mean he's not valuable to the organization.
Solarte represents quality depth for the 2014 season. With an infield bound to battle injuries all season long, Solarte has a chance to make an impact at some point this year.
If he hits in the bigs like he's currently hitting in spring training, then Girardi will be forced to find him a more permanent role.
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