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Rob Refsnyder call-up a referendum on Stephen Drew

BOSTON -- His name is Rob Refsnyder, but it might just as well be Rob Referendum.

Because if there's a people's choice to replace Stephen Drew at second base, Refsnyder is that man. After the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-1 in the first of three games at Fenway Park leading into the All-Star break, manager Joe Girardi confirmed what Jack Curry of the YES Network first reported, that Refsnyder, whom many Yankees fans believe is the answer to the offensive void that was left at second base when Robinson Cano took off for Seattle, would be promoted from Triple-A Scranton in time for Saturday's game.

That means the Drew era, if not exactly over, might be going on hiatus for at least the next eight days, and maybe longer.

With the Red Sox starting lefties in the next two games of this series, Girardi said Refsnyder, a right-handed batter, would be in the lineup for both games.

"He's a player who has value," Girardi said, "and we want to see him play."

The manager could have been speaking for an entire generation of Yankees fans, most of whom only saw Refsnyder play in the late innings of spring-training games after most of the regulars were long gone. But with Drew struggling, to many Refsnyder has become a symbol of the youth movement the Yankees need to lead them into the next generation. As a result, Refsnyder is the most anticipated Yankees position player call-up in quite a while, and probably will remain so until Aaron Judge's turn comes around.

The news that Refsnyder would be a Yankee by Saturday overshadowed the rather drab events on the field Friday as the Yankees, behind a very sharp Michael Pineda, beat up on a sloppy Red Sox team that lost ace Clay Buchholz to elbow tightness in the fourth inning.

Asked if he was excited to see Refsnyder in action, Girardi said, “Yeah, I mean, he played well in spring training. It’s a young man that’s been on our radar, and we’ll see how he does.”

Drew, too, sounded as if he was eager to see what his ostensible replacement could do at the highest level.

"Good for him," Drew said. "It’s going to be fun for him, and hopefully he'll adjust soon and in his first at-bat or whatnot, he can get a hit and add that first one. I think he’s good. I saw him in spring training; he’s a great player and a good hitter, so looking forward to him being here with us."

It was telling that Girardi apparently went out of his way to break the news to Drew that there would be another second baseman in the clubhouse when he arrived for work Saturday morning. "Skip came up and talked with me, just to let me know, after the game," Drew said.

The implications are obvious. Despite having hit 12 home runs and playing a very good second base even though he only learned the position this spring, Drew is batting just .182, lowest among 162 qualifying major league regulars, and has become the man Yankees fans love to hate.

Meanwhile, Refsnyder -- who sparked a lot of fan dreams by hitting .364 in spring training -- is batting .290 with seven home runs, 37 RBIs and an .800 OPS for Scranton. The drawback on him, of course, is his glove -- he has made 13 errors in 81 games, but 11 of them came in the first six weeks of the season.

“We’ve heard that he’s improved and that he’s making strides and we’re going to find out,” Girardi said.

The irony of it all is that Drew, who was a superior defensive shortstop before being shifted to second when the Yankees signed Didi Gregorius, made a couple of sparkling plays at second base Friday night that helped keep the Red Sox from climbing back into the game. Meanwhile the Boston second baseman, Brock Holt, committed a couple of gaffes that practically insured his team would lose. The question lingers as to whether Refsnyder's deficiencies with the glove will be outweighed by his ability with the bat.

The odds are that even if he has lost his second base job -- for the rest of the weekend, at least -- Drew is still going to be around. It is even likely that he will play third base Saturday and maybe Sunday with Chase Headley recovering from a calf strain and the likelihood that Cole Figueroa, who played third base the past two games, would be sent down to make room on the roster for Refsnyder.

There is also the possibility that Refsnyder is being showcased for a possible trade-deadline deal, as he is one of the few prospects the Yankees might be willing to move for the right big-league-ready player. It is doubtful they would part with Judge, a power-hitting giant of an outfielder, or pitcher Luis Severino, who is considered the top prospect in the Yankees' farm system.

Whatever their intentions, this is the weekend we all finally get a real look at Refsnyder against big-league ballplayers who are actually trying to win big-league ballgames. Call it an audition, call it a showcase, call it the first step toward the disappointing Drew being designated for assignment. Call it whatever you like.

For a lot of Yankees fans, the call-up of Refsnyder is truly a referendum on the short and so-far-unsatisfying tenure of Drew, and there's no question about which way they are voting.