Yankees rookie Solarte quietly makes major impact

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: May 16 2014 01:49:43 AM CDT
Updated On: May 16 2014 01:49:44 AM CDT

NEW YORK -- In most seasons, New York Yankees third baseman Yangervis Solarte would be the runaway leader in the American League Rookie of the Year race.

However, the fact he is not even the most dominant rookie in his own clubhouse -- and he likely would finish no higher than third if the AL balloting were conducted now -- doesn't diminish the surprising impact he made in his first 35 major league games.

Solarte endured a rare hitless game Thursday, when his nine-game hitting streak ended as he went 0-for-4 in the Yankees' 1-0 win over the Mets at Citi Field.

It was just the eighth time this season that Solarte, who is tied for second in the AL with a .325 average -- was held without a hit. He leads the Yankees with 23 RBIs and has 14 extra-base hits, tied for second most on the team, in 123 at-bats.

Those are pretty gaudy numbers for any rookie, never mind someone who never spent a day in the bigs before the Yankees signed him as a minor league free agent in January.

"I'm not so sure that anyone would have predicted the impact that he's had in the first six weeks," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Thursday afternoon.

The Yankees figured Solarte -- a switch hitter with experience at third base as well as second base and shortstop in an eight-year professional career -- would serve as a utility man if he made the team out of spring training. However, he hit .429 with two homers and nine RBIs in 42 Grapefruit League at-bats to win the third base job vacated when Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

"We're seeing a lot of what we saw in spring training," Girardi said.

And while Solarte may not spend all season contending for the AL batting crown -- and he will likely finish far behind teammate Masahiro Tanaka, the right-handed pitcher who is 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA in eight starts, and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who leads the AL with 15 homers and 41 RBIs, in the Rookie of the Year voting -- the Yankees have ample reason to believe they found a very good everyday player.

"You're always careful to judge a player in spring training on what's going to happen (during the season)," Girardi said, "but he came in extremely prepared for spring training. He had played winter ball and got off to a great start, and he's just kept it going."

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