At no point this winter did the Yankees seriously consider using Alfonso Soriano to fill their hole at second base. That position is long gone for Soriano. Even he laughs out loud at the idea of going back there.
“No, no, no,” he said. “I don’t think so.”
But that’s not to say the Yankees aren’t willing to be creative with their most powerful right-handed hitter. A second baseman early in his career, and a left fielder in more recent years, Soriano made his first spring training start in the field by jogging to right field on Friday night. He’s also brought a first-baseman’s mitt to camp, and he plans to get some time at the position.
In 1,758 major league games, and another 230 in the minors, Soriano never played either right field or first base in a game.
“It’s a little bit different, but we are baseball players,” Soriano said. “You have to make adjustments.”
The Yankees are overflowing in the outfield, but they have no obvious backup at first base. Soriano seems like their most obvious designated hitter, but they also have plenty of veterans who need some DH time as well. The best way to utilize Soriano, who hit 34 home runs last year and surged in the second half, is to move him around. Designated hitter, left field, right field, first base; Soriano is going to be his own sort of utility man.
“It’s just having more flexibility probably more than anything else,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Since we don’t really have one DH, it allows us to DH more people if he can do that. … He’s played infield. (Using him at first base) will give us a chance to DH someone besides one of our outfielders at times. I think he’s athletic enough to do it. He’s played that side of the infield before.”
Kelly Johnson is considered a first base option, and Russ Canzler is probably going to play the position a lot in Triple-A, but Girardi said it’s “possible” that Soriano could become the true second-string first baseman.
“The most important thing is to just be in the lineup,” Soriano said. “If I’m in the lineup, now matter how — DH, play defense — I’m fine. I just want to be able to help the team. Most important for me is to just be in the lineup.”