By Chad Jennings
New York Yankees third baseman Rob Refsnyder throws out a Washington Nationals runner in the third inning of a spring training baseball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Viera, Fla.
Just a few days ago, Rob Refsnyder seemed to be a favorite to make the Yankees big league roster as a utility infielder. Today, he was optioned to Triple-A.
One day after his 25th birthday — and one day after he was hit in the face by a bad-hop grounder for the second day in a row — Refsnyder was sent to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he will presumably continue to get experience at third base in preparation for a possible bench role later in the season. Refsnyder hit just .242/.286/.364 this spring and was 1-for-11 with a home run against lefties. He seemed to be a favorite for the big league roster because of his strong finish to last season, his offensive potential from the right side, and because of his early success while learning to play third base.
The past two days, though, were not kind.
On Friday, Refsnyder made errors on back-to-back plays. The first was a throwing error just wide of first base (the first baseman was able to catch the ball, but had to come off the bag). The second was a bad hop grounder that hit off Refsnyder’s glove, struck him in the face and forced him out of the game because he was bleeding. The very next day, on Saturday, Refsnyder made another throwing error — this one wide left of the bag where Mark Teixeira couldn’t scoop it — and was hit in the face by another grounder, this was one on an especially brutal hop of a ground ball that jumped into the air when Refsnyder least expected it.
Joe Girardi said he didn’t think either ball to the face was a product of Refsnyder’s experience at third. They were simply the product of tough luck on dry spring training infields. The bad throws, while not as embarrassing, might have been just as damning.
Without Refsnyder, the Yankees have three options for their final bench spot (which Girardi has said will definitely go to someone who can play third base).
1. Ronald Torreyes — The 23-year-old has hit .313/.333/.375 while playing second, third and shortstop this spring. He has limited Major League experience and a reputation for making consistent contact at the plate. He’s struck out three times in 32 at-bats this spring. He can play the left side of the infield but has been primarily a second baseman. Torreyes is on the 40-man roster.
2. Pete Kozma — The 27-year-old defensive specialist used to be the regular shortstop in St. Louis but fell into more of a utility role because of his underwhelming offensive numbers. He’s a former first-round pick who started this spring with a mild back injury. He’s since hit .167 through 24 at-bats. He has significant experience at all three non-first infield positions and would be the best defensive option available.
3. Late spring castoff — A wild-card possibility, and one Brian Cashman always leaves open during spring training. As other teams make their final roster decisions, veterans on minor league contracts and young guys out of options will inevitably become available (similar to Ruben Tejada earlier this spring). If the Yankees like one of those options, they could make a move to acquire someone for a minimal contract.