TAMPA, Fla. -- As is customary in the final days of any spring training, New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman made a flurry of roster moves, most of which drew little more than shrugs. But one move was particularly unpopular with Yankees fans, if no less predictable to the reporters who cover the team: re-assigning second baseman Rob Refsnyder to the Yankees minor-league camp across the street from Steinbrenner Field.
Thus ends for now the dream of many Yankee fans that Refsnyder, who hit .333 this spring, might be ready to step into a job as a backup infielder when the Yankees open the season Monday in New York. In fact, it appeared that the break Refsnyder needed had arrived on Wednesday night, when backup infielder Brendan Ryan was diagnosed with a Grade 2 calf strain, an injury that will probably keep him out for the first month of the season.
Joe Girardi went so far as to declare that the solution to the problem resided inside the Yankees' clubhouse, and with spring sensation Jose Pirela still on the shelf due to a concussion, Girardi was asked specifically about Refsnyder.
“He’s played pretty well," Girardi said. "There's no shortage of work ethic in this young man. He has continually improved. He’s a name that I’m sure is going to fly around a lot today.”
Well, that flew right out the window a few hours later when the Yankees acquired Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros. Petit is a 30-year-old journeyman who has played in the big-leagues for parts of three seasons, including 37 games with the Astros last year. The acquisition was a strong hint that not everyone in the organization was quite sold on Refnsyder's ability to step in immediately for the Yankees.
On Thursday morning, Cashman confirmed those suspicions.
"Refsnyder, I think he had a tremendous camp, but (he's had) maybe 240 games at second base so far,'' Cashman said. "He just needs to finish off some more defense. If we needed to use him, we'd be comfortable enough, but at the same time you guys saw in camp he's got some work to do on the defensive side.''
In short, the Yankees believe Petit is a big-league ready second baseman and Refsnyder, who made six errors in 23 games this spring, is not.
Cashman had other reasons for choosing Petit: "He's right-handed versus, for instance, [Nick] Noonan (another candidate).''
He also said the Yankees would prefer Refsnyder to play every day in AAA rather than ride the bench in the Bronx. "We want him to be finished off and ready to go whenever we need him," Cashman said. "But at some point if injuries hit and we have to have him in that role or situation, I'm not saying you won't see that down the line. We'd just prefer not to do that right now."
Refsnyder started at second base in the home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the plan was to replace him at some point in the game. With Petit. Just like on the roster.