Perhaps the World Baseball Classic became a blessing for Ruben Tejada. The former Met with a minor league contract is in New York Yankees camp and manager Joe Girardi has to make decisions without Didi Gregorius who will miss Opening Day and maybe more. Yes, the unfortunate thing is the WBC may pave the way for Tejada to get a spot on the Yankees roster.
And forget for a moment, that debate about the WBC played the wrong time of year. The baseball played is good but injuries are a part of the game whether it’s WBC timing or the endless amount of spring games played on the schedule before opening day.
Gregorius will tell you this is the sacrifice of playing baseball or any sport. The unfortunate part of this, the Yankees need to look at a viable option until he returns from a shoulder injury that leaves a significant void in their lineup.
Last season, Gregorius had career highs in batting average (.276), home runs (20), and runs batted in with 70. Add a career high OPS of .751 and you get the picture.
That is a void, but the Yankees a team that will ride on how far their starting pitching goes will miss those numbers coming at the bottom of their order. Regardless of how good the youngsters look down in Tampa the manager will always say those numbers are difficult to replace.
So here we go, and again with who should be the viable option? The 27-year old Mets pick out of Panama, and for some reason who never seemed to be appreciated across town, should be the leading candidate for Girardi to start opening day next Sunday night in Tampa.
But the knock always was the good glove and bad bat of Ruben Tejada, and that sense came when the Mets looked at other options when they acquired Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera to shore up their infield.
Don’t blame Tejada for his ability to compete and win. The Mets never gave him the chance after taking one for the team and being the unfortunate victim of an ugly slide from the Dodgers’ Chase Utley in the 2015 NLDS. Tejada became a hero for the fans, who at one time was the viable replacement for the departed Jose Reyes.
But for the Yankees there is a challenge to get a starting role, which would be at least the temporary option to fill the void while Gregorius recovers. That job is safe with Didi who does make a difference in the lineup.
Tejada, spoke briefly to this columnist from Tampa and said, “I am ready to help this team anyway I can. I am healthy and ready to go.” That was always the Tejada statement when he got the call to start at short, second base and even some at first when with the Mets.
It’s the work ethic and Girardi does see that with the numerous starts Tejada has had this spring in the infield.
Girardi would not commit about that interim replacement when addressing media Tuesday afternoon. The youngsters are there to fill the void and Yankees fans want them on the field as much as they are not ready to play the part in a 162-game season. Rule out Gleyber Torres the Yankees 20 -year old top prospect who was reassigned and optioned to Double-A Trenton.
And as much as Torres is what they want, he is not ready. There is the good bat but a glove that needs more work in the infield before Torres gets the call to be a part of this promised future in the Bronx for the Yankees.
Ronald Torreyes, who spent almost all of 2016 back-and-forth from the Bronx to Scranton-Triple-A is hitting over .260 this spring but not the option for an everyday role. Tyler Wade and all of his 22-years is slated to start for Scranton and does have the tools. Forget about Starlin Castro converting back to short.
The Yankees are certainly younger and more athletic and that means well for their future. One month or five weeks without Gregorius won’t make a difference because there is that skeptical optimism regarding the arms of CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.
But Ruben Tejada is the right option. And the Yankees will get some leadership and experience from that position if Girardi has the confidence to give him that chance. After all there is nothing to lose here except the unfortunate loss of a starter who headed to the WBC and hopefully is not lost for a great amount of time.