HOUSTON --- Rookie Yangervis Solarte saw his name in a major league lineup for the first time in his life. Since he was a child, he has watched Derek Jeter play, so he did what any fan of the game might do. He picked up an extra lineup card and went to every starter, including Jeter, and asked them to autograph where their name appeared.
— Marly~ESPN Deportes (@MarlyRiveraESPN) April 4, 2014
On a night when David Robertson succeeded Mariano Rivera for the first time, future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki made a case for more playing time, Jeter picked up his initial RBI in his final season and the Yankees won for the first time in 2014, Solarte stole the headlines by going 3-for-3 with an RBI, two runs scored and one nice stab on a liner at third. After it all, he might have grabbed himself some more playing time.
"I'll see what I'm going to do," Joe Girardi said when asked if he would play Solarte again Friday night in Toronto during Masahiro Tanaka's debut.
The Yankees signed Solarte as a minor league free agent from the Texas Rangers. Even without a spot on the 40-man roster, he beat out Eduardo Nunez by hitting .429. It is still very early, but he possibly could work himself into some time at third in a platoon with Kelly Johnson or if Brian Roberts were to get hurt at second.
Right now, he is just soaking it all in. He made his debut Wednesday, pinch-hitting and grounding into a run scoring double play. At third that night, he was a little freaked out standing next to Jeter, who asked Solarte if he were nervous. Solarte said he wasn't. The perpetually joking-around Jeter replied by saying, he, even at 39, was nervous.
"Incredible," the 26-year-old Solarte said of being at third beside Jeter on Thursday. "It is someone I have seen since I was a child. And to be here today, with him, it is something that you don't accomplish every day."
Ichiro used to be an every day player, one of the all-time greatest hitters for batting average. But at 39, he has been relegated to a reserve who must take advantage of every opportunity he receives.
On Thursday, he picked up two hits, including a double. With Alfonso Soriano looking a little ragged at 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, Ichiro started to make a campaign for more time.
"When you are playing in the big leagues, there is never a game where there is no pressure, you are always under pressure," Ichiro said. "That is the same any time."
Starter Ivan Nova had no sharpness Thursday. His final spring training tune-up was rained out, putting rust on his stuff and perhaps resulting in his inconsistency Thursday.
"I was able to pitch with really one pitch," said Nova, who uncharacteristically didn't have his curveball.
He used four double plays and the end was set up for Robertson. Robertson has picked up saves in his career, but this was No. 1 post-No. 42. It was a 1-2-3 outing.
"It is nice to actually get a win for us," Robertson said. "I didn't have runners all over the place. I didn't make it too dramatic so that was a lot better."
The Yankees finally got started on the 2014 campaign, and with all the big, expensive names on this team, it was the most unfamiliar who was in the middle of it all.