NEW YORK -- When the New York Yankees called up Rob Refsnyder for a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park just before the All-Star break, it was with high expectations from the fans, Refsnyder's teammates, and even manager Joe Girardi.
"We want to see what this kid can do," said Girardi, who started Refsnyder in all four of those games.
And the 24-year-old second baseman showed some pop -- he homered in his second big-league game, a two-run shot in the ninth inning that rescued the Yankees from what looked like a 6-4 defeat and prolonged the game sufficiently for them to pull out an 8-6 victory.
But Refsnyder, who looked a little rough around the edges at second base, also showed the Yankees something that seems to have made them determine he was not quite ready for prime-time. They sent him back to Triple-A Scranton after two more games following the resumption of the season, and the demotion apparently did not sit well. Refsnyder hit .225 over the second half of the RailRiders season.
Still, the Yankees included him among their September call-ups, although aside from two at-bats in late-inning appearances, he had yet to start another game. When Girardi needed a right-handed hitting second baseman, he turned to Jose Pirela before going to Refsnyder.
But tonight, Girardi is finally giving Refsnyder another shot, although its something of a thankless task having to face the tough Chris Sale after having had just two plate appearances all month.
“Baseball is tough enough as it is if you’re playing every day," Refsnyder said. "Obviously Sale is really tough against everyone, but especially against lefties. I talked to a couple guys who gave me some advice. I’m just going to do my best to have good at-bats, quality at-bats, and try to help us get a win."
Refsnyder said he was neither surprised nor disappointed that it took 21 games, and the AL East title nearly out of reach, for Girardi to see fit to write his name on the lineup card. “I didn’t have any expectations," he said. "My job is to get ready, help and be a good teammate. I’m just excited about the opportunity today."
Refsnyder was also excited to be playing against ChiSox right-fielder Trayce Thompson, who he said was a childhood friend from Southern California. "It will be pretty special because me and him are really close. It would be kind of cool to have both our families celebrate that,” he said.
“We’re trying to get all the right-handers we can, and you know what, we’re seeing a left-hander tomorrow that’s extremely tough on left-handers," Girardi said, hinting Refsnyder could start again on Friday night against Chicago lefty Carlos Rodon.
Asked why he opted for Refsnyder tonight over Pirela, also a right-handed hitter, Girardi said, “He was playing every day (at Scranton) at second base. Pirela was a guy that moved around a lot and all over. So we decided to go with Refsnyder.”
Refsnyder said Girardi told him over lunch Thursday afternoon that he would be starting that night. Refsnyder said he was enjoying his time with the Yankees even though most of it has been spent on the bench.
“I have one of the best jobs in the world," he said. "I get to come here every day and spend a lot of time learning from guys like [Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia], sit on the bench with them and get some knowledge from them. It’s been a privilege honestly to be here and learn from them. It’s been a really special year, something I’ll always remember."