For Rob Refsnyder, the addition of Ike Davis to the Yankees’ 25-man roster yesterday represents another fork in the road for his future. Refsnyder has served as the emergency first baseman for the past nine games and might start again Tuesday night against Colorado lefthander Jorge De La Rosa, but Davis’ lefthanded power and experience as a first baseman likely will limit Refsnyder’s playing time at the position.
Drafted out of the University of Arizona in 2012 as a rightfielder, Refsnyder moved to second base, where his fielding was suspect. With Greg Bird and Dustin Ackley out for the year with shoulder injuries, Refsnyder switched to first base when Mark Teixeira went on the disabled list June 4 with torn cartilage in his right knee, and the depth situation grew worse last week when Chris Parmelee went on the DL with a right hamstring strain.
If he has been frustrated by the obstacles he’s faced in carving out a consistent role, the 25-year-old Refsnyder hasn’t shown it. “I have one of the greatest jobs in the world,” he said. “It’s challenging at times, learning new positions, but I’m super-grateful that the Yankees have enough confidence in me to do it.”
Before the Yankees agreed to terms with Davis on Sunday, manager Joe Girardi praised Refsnyder’s effort in making the transition to first. “This is not an easy position to play,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of little things that happen at first base that people don’t necessarily think about. I give him a lot of credit because he’s embraced it. He’s out early every day trying to pick things up, and he’s done a pretty good job.”
Refsnyder has yet to commit an error at first, but the fact that Davis is a proven fielder at the position gives him an edge. The question about Davis is whether he can regain consistency at the plate. With Round Rock, the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, Davis batted .268 with four home runs and 25 RBIs in 142 at-bats this year but struck out 37 times.
Refsnyder is hitting .212 with no home runs and six RBIs in 14 games for the Yankees, but he showed significant promise as a hitter when he was called up last season and batted .302 with two home runs and five RBIs in 16 games before starting at second base in the wild-card game against the Astros. That experience gave Ref snyder the confidence that he could make it.
“Definitely, as a younger player who had never been there, you wonder if your game will translate to the major-league level,” Refsnyder said. “It was nice getting to the postseason. I feel a lot more comfortable this year.”
At the same time, he isn’t kidding himself that the temporary void at first base is his opportunity to stick with the Yankees. Teixeira joined the Yankees on their six-game road trip and is working to come back within another two weeks. The presence of Davis and expected return of Bird next season pretty well ensure that Refsnyder’s best shot is at another position.
Still, it’s possible that the Yankees will trade veteran assets to begin the kind of youth movement they have avoided in the past. Refsnyder didn’t even want to speculate about that possibility.
“If you think about those things, you kind of put yourself in harm’s way,” he said. “There’s obviously a lot of great young talent, but there’s a lot of great talent that has a lot of experience that has helped us along the way. You play good baseball if you infuse veterans and younger players who are eager to come up here and help and do anything possible to help.”
Notes & quotes: Righthander Layne Somsen was designated for assignment. Chad Green was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday to clear roster space for Davis.