The New York Yankees plan to try Isiah Kiner-Falefa in center field during upcoming spring training games, opening the door further for top prospect Anthony Volpe to make the team as the Opening Day shortstop.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday that Kiner-Falefa, who primarily has played shortstop over the past two seasons, will see playing time in center field later this week as the Yankees seek a replacement for the injured Harrison Bader.
“I think [Kiner-Falefa] could play that role really, really well because of his athleticism,” Boone told reporters, according to MLB.com. “He’s worked in the outfield the last couple of days, and I looked at some video of it the other day, just watching how his feet move and stuff.
“I think he’d be natural out there — the ability to move around, his speed and athleticism, his bat-to-ball [skills].”
Kiner-Falefa told MLB.com on Wednesday that he expects to play center field on Friday against the Detroit Tigers.
“Adding center field to my resume a little bit is good — just being able to play there in a pinch if something happens and the team needs me,” he said.
The Yankees are open to using Kiner-Falefa in the outfield because of Volpe, who entered spring training as a longshot to make the major league roster but is “in the mix” to be the starting shortstop, according to Boone.
Volpe, 21, was batting .321 with two home runs, four doubles and three stolen bases in 28 at-bats entering Wednesday’s spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“He’s performed,” Boone said Tuesday. “We knew coming in that he was going to be a big story of camp. He’s come in with the expectations and a lot of eyeballs on him, and he’s performed.”
Volpe, recently rated by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel as baseball’s No. 3 overall prospect, was batting leadoff Wednesday as New York’s shortstop while Kiner-Falefa started at third base. Boone said Tuesday that Kiner-Falefa is “still in the running” for the starting shortstop job and noted that fellow prospect Oswald Peraza also has “looked the part out there at shortstop.”
A former Gold Glove-winning third baseman, Kiner-Falefa started 131 games at shortstop for the Yankees last season before struggling down the stretch and losing playing time to Peraza. The six-year veteran told NJ Advance Media last week that he wants a role on the Yankees even if it’s not at shortstop.
“I’m happy that I’m able to show [my versatility] off over the next couple of days,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I need a role on this team if I’m not playing shortstop. I have an opportunity over the next couple days to put myself in a role. If it’s not a shortstop, maybe that allows [the Yankees] to hold on to me.”
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