Neil Walker will make his Yankees debut on Friday night against the Houston Astros.
If you missed it, you should have seen Wade showing great range to take away two hits Thursday with diving stops in the first-base hole and up the middle in the Yankees’ 9-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. And his lefty-on-lefty walk facing fireballer closer Felipe Rivero in the fourth inning was almost as impressive because he dug right back in there after a 100-mph, 1-2 fastball just missed his head.
Book it. Wade is going to be the Yankees’ starter at second when they open March 29 in Toronto even though he’s a .155 hitter with 58 career at-bats as a big leaguer in 30 games last season.
From reading the coaches-speak tealeaves, second base might be Wade’s to lose until Yankees’ No. 1 prospect Gleyber Torres becomes Major League ready, as a matter of fact.
As for the Yankees’ new switch-hitting second baseman with power who joined them this week on a one-year, $4-million contract, Neil Walker probably will start out as a part-time player.
After three practice days, Walker will debut for the Yankees playing first base in Friday night’s 6:35 game in Tampa against the World Series champion Houston Astros.
Walker is a proven big leaguer with good seasons on his resume, but his status until this week as an unsigned free agent has him behind even though he recently spent two weeks in Bradenton, Fla., training with others in his situation.
So early on in the regular season, Walker probably will get some starts at second, he’ll play a little first when Greg Bird sits against tough lefties and he’ll maybe play a little third for Brandon Drury against righties.
“We’ll try and get him in some games at second and third, which is what he did over on the minor league side (on Wednesday),” manager Aaron Boone said. “I think he played half at third, half at second. This is just another part of the puzzle where we slot the at-bats on a given day. (Friday) being at first, more a coincidence.”
It’s also a billboard screaming, “WADE IS THE STARTER!”
It wouldn’t be surprising if Walker becomes the starter at second in time, but probably only if it’s obvious that he should be there over Wade.
“I weigh it all,” Boone said. “I look at it as we have two really good players there that can impact our club in different ways. I think the versatility of both guys in different ways adds to our dynamic, hopefully.”
Walker is scheduled to play five or six innings on Friday. After signing on Monday, he took BP and fielded grounders on Tuesday, he had four at-bats playing seven innings in a minor-league game on Wednesday and he took BP again Thursday.
“I think the good thing when I checked in with him (Thursday) morning is how good he felt coming in,” Boone said. “He was actually surprised he felt as good as he did. I think that’s a tribute to the shape he came in. With the (free agents camp) stuff, he felt like he was in a good place physically. So far the first few days we’ve had him, that’s pretty evident.”