Kelly Johnson has played 118 major-league innings at third base. That’s exactly 100 more than he’s played at first base.
“It would be a lot weirder if I was a little bit younger, a little bit newer in the game,” Johnson said. “I’ve been around just enough to feel a little more comfortable in doing it and handling it.”
This afternoon, Johnson will get his first spring start at first base. Although Alfonso Soriano is doing some drills at first, Johnson is currently considered the Yankees backup at the position. He’s made two major-league starts as a first baseman, and he got in another game as a late-inning replacement.
“I tried to sneak in there a few times (during drills),” Johnson said. “I did early work (Friday). I did it with Tex not too long ago last week which was huge because he’s awesome about teaching the stuff. I’ll try to get some ground balls. Probably the most important thing for me at first is footwork around the bag, being ready to make the right move to the ball if it’s a bad throw or a throw that’s off the bag, making sure you gain as much ground as you can and still stay on the bag.”
Johnson has so far played only third base this spring. I can’t remember a particularly tough play he’s had to make — and the spring defensive stats tell me he’s made just four plays total — but the position actual seems to be a non-issue for him. Johnson’s played 16 major-league games at third, and he came up as a shortstop, meaning he’s used to that side of the infield. If the Yankees had any worry about his ability to play there, that worry seems to have faded away. He’ll keep getting time at third, but that transition doesn’t seem to be a source of concern. Most of his big league time as come at second base and left field. This year, most of it might come at first and third.
“Either way you show up to play the game,” Johnson said. “Whatever the lineup card says. It’d be kind of like saying, are you going to be OK, usually you hit second but today you’re hitting eighth. It’s the same thing. You’re showing up to play so you’ve still got the job to do.”
· Brendan Ryan said his sore oblique is a complete non-issue. He said it felt a little “gluey” the other day (whatever that means). “This isn’t one of those things where it’s like, if it was Game 7 I could tough it out,” Ryan said. “No. Back end of a quadruple-header, I’d be upset if I wasn’t in there. … I’d say they’re being cautious to say the least. This is only happening because it’s March. Really quite a small deal.”
· Ryan expects to be fully active on Wednesday.
· Scott Sizemore isn’t playing today, but he’s been encouraged by the way his left knee has felt this spring. He wears a pretty large stabilizing brace during games, and said he’s gotten used to moving with it. Running the bases has been a non-issue, and Sizemore had to make a diving play in the field his very first game. He said he’s still waiting to have his range truly tested — said he wants to find out if he can still make a Web Gem play when necessary — but so far, so good. He’s moving pretty well for a guy who’s coming off back-to-back ACL surgeries.
· Manny Banuelos feels fine after yesterday’s first spring inning. “It feels great,” he said.
· Didn’t get a chance to talk to Tyler Austin this morning, but the one time I did see him in the clubhouse, he was wearing batting gloves and seemed to be heading toward the cage. Seems like a positive sign.
· Adam Warren will make his next start Saturday in Panama. For now, he’s throwing a simulated game today. Said he expected to only do an inning or two with some bullpen work in the next week. Shawn Kelley also threw a simulated game. That comes after a one-out appearance in his previous spring training game on Friday. Corban Joseph and Austin Romine are the hitters.
· Branden Pinder, Jeremy Bleich and Pat Venditte are back in big league camp for the day. They’re here as emergency relievers.
· Tomorrow is a true off day in big league camp. In fact, the sign that marks Monday as an “Off Day” is designed so that the O in Off is a smiley face. No pitchers scheduled for any sort of action. Maybe some daily medical treatment for a few guys, but it’s scheduled as a true day with no baseball activity.
· Today’s bullpen sessions:
Bryan Mitchell (to Roman Rodriguez)
Shane Greene (to Francisco Cervelli)
Jose Campos (to Gary Sanchez)
Vidal Nuno (to Jose Gil)
Jim Miller (to Austin Romine)
Dave Robertson (to Austin Romine)
Matt Thornton (to Francisco Arcia)
Hiroki Kuroda (to Roman Rodriguez)
· Batting practice groups:
Group 1: Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, Brian McCann
Group 2: Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Kelly Johnson, Mark Teixiera
Group 3: Dean Anna, Russ Canzler, Yangervis Solarte, Zelous Wheeler, John Ryan Murphy
Group 4: Adonis Garcia, Ramon Flores, Jose Pirela, Mason Williams, Jose Gil
Group 5: Zoilo Almonte, Corban Joseph, Eduardo Nunez, Antoan Richardson, Scott Sizemore
Group 6: Francisco Arcia, Francisco Cervelli, Pete O’Brien, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez
· Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Zelous Wheeler, SS Dean Anna, 3B Jose Pirela, LF Ramon Flores, CF Mason Williams, RF Adonis Garcia, DH Jose Gil
· Today’s scheduled relievers: Dellin Betances, Mark Montgomery, Bruce Billings, Danny Burawa, Matt Daley (with Preston Claiborne, Branden Pinder, Jeremy Bleich and Pat Venditte available if necessary)
· Travel squad for Vierra on Tuesday:
Pitchers: Dellin Betances, Danny Burawa, Cesar Cabral, Matt Daley, Brian Gordon, David Herndon, Fred Lewis, Jim Miller, Mark Montgomery, CC Sabathia, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Francisco Cervelli, Jose Gil, Brian McCann, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: Dean Anna, Corban Joseph, Eduardo Nunez, Jose Pirela, Scott Sizemore, Yangervis Solarte, Mark Teixeira, Zelous Wheeler
Outfielders: Zoilo Almonte, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ramon Flores, Adonis Garcia, Brett Gardner, Antoan Richardson, Mason Williams
Associated Press photos