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Chatelain: Refsnyder's Play Forcing Yankees To Find Him A Spot

By Ryan Chatelain
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It's a question Rob Refsnyder just can't shake: Where does he fit in?

But the rookie is making his case loud and clear that the Yankees must find a spot in the lineup for him -- and for his part, he's been quite accommodating.

Refsnyder was drafted in 2012 as an outfielder before transitioning to second base. After the Starlin Castro trade blocked any path he might have had to a potential starting gig at second in the majors, he began the season in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he was moved around like a chess piece -- second base, third base, right field.

Then shortly after he was called up, Refsnyder found himself manning first base for the first time since -- well, he can't remember when. He had never played the position in the pros.

Rob Refsnyder
The Yankees' Rob Refsnyder is congratulated after scoring against the Detroit Tigers on June 2, 2016, at Comerica Park in Detroit. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

"Pretty much every starting position was tied up, and I just knew I had to hit," Refsnyder told WFAN.com. "And that's kind of what I was focusing on, just making sure I had good at-bats. And wherever they put me, just make sure I caught the ball and do everything I was supposed to do."

While the Yankees had the foresight to try to maximize Refsnyder's playing opportunities, they surely didn't plan on needing his versatility so soon and so desperately.

First base has almost seemed cursed for the Bombers this season. Due to injuries, Greg Bird, Mark Teixeira, Dustin Ackley and Chris Parmelee have all been the antithesis of Lou Gehrig.

Enter Refsnyder for his trial by fire, which is still a work in progress through 17 games as evidenced by his first-inning error Wednesday night against the Rangers. But, considering the circumstances, what did you expect?

"I'm getting there," Refsnyder said of getting acclimated to first base. "I don't think it matters if I'm comfortable or not. I'm learning every day."

Teixeria's return from a knee injury last week has left manager Joe Girardi again asking that familiar question: Where does Refsnyder fit? The Yankees' skipper simply can't afford to waste Refsnyder on the bench. Why? Because he's one of the few Yankees who is actually hitting with any consistency.

Refsnyder is batting .295, and he's been particularly hot lately, swinging at a .393 clip since June 14. On Wednesday, it was his leadoff single that kick-started the Yankees' six-run, ninth-inning rally in a come-from-behind, 9-7 victory.

And Refsnyder's hot streak came at just the right time, as the Bombers had recently signed Ike Davis to help at first base while Teixeira was out. Refsnyder's bat made it a no-brainer who should stay and who should go once Tex returned.

Refsnyder was a highly touted prospect in the Yankees' farm system after he delivered at the plate at every level of the minors. So why, at age 25, did it take an onslaught of injuries to finally get him his first extended look in the bigs?

"I think there were always some questions where he fit defensively," Girardi said earlier this month. "And I don't think they were ever looking at a bat that necessarily hit 30 to 35 home runs. So it was kind of an, 'OK, where do we fit him in?' I think that's been part of it. I think people have felt that he's needed to improve on his defense at second base. And now that we're moving him around to first, second and right, he's getting more opportunities, and I think his versatility has actually helped him."

So for now Refsnyder fits in as a utilityman, the Yankees' version of Ben Zobrist, so to speak.

He can spell the 36-year-old, injury-prone Teixeira from time to time, just as he did Wednesday. Or perhaps he can eventually wrest the job away from Teixeira, who, with a .192 batting average, still hasn't found his stroke this season.

Refsnyder can also slide into right field on days when Alex Rodriguez is benched and Carlos Beltran, who missed Wednesday's game with a hamstring issue, is made the designated hitter.

And if the Yankees ultimately trade Beltran near the deadline, it could open a spot for Refsnyder to at least be part of a right field platoon.

In the meantime, there's one person who is not asking where Refsnyder fits in the Yankees' plans: Refsnyder himself.

"I'm in the major leagues, and that's all I can really ask for," he said. "And hopefully we can go on a little roll here and start winning some games."

Follow Ryan on Twitter at @RyanChatelain

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