NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2016, 12:05 AM
Rob Refsnyder, who needs to pick up his game in the field, now looking at bench role.
TAMPA — Rob Refsnyder is a cult hero among certain prospect nerds, a promising hitter who may just need an extended chance in the majors to thrive.
At one point this winter, it seemed Refsnyder might get that opportunity when there was speculation the Yankees would use a platoon of Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley at second base this season. Instead, the Yanks traded for Starlin Castro and Refsnyder was blocked.
“It doesn’t really change how I go about things,” Refsnyder said Wednesday in the parking lot of the Yankees’ minor-league complex. “If I work hard, I really don’t see how it can be a disadvantage to me. I’m just going to take care of my business and kind of go from there.
“Obviously, Starlin is a great addition for the Yankees,” Refsnyder added. “He’s young and I’m looking forward to learning from him, just kind of bouncing ideas off of him, learning from him defensively, because I know he’s going to second base, too. He’s got a great swing and he’s young and athletic. I’m looking forward to it.”
Give Refsnyder credit for saying the right things — he knows disappointment won’t get him to the majors. But a bench job might. With the Yankees looking to use Castro as their backup shortstop and third baseman as well as the starter at second, does Refsnyder figure as a bench factor at some point this season? It certainly seems possible, especially if injuries affect the infield.
When someone asked about taking grounders at third this spring, Refsnyder said, “I’m up for anything, to be honest. Just a couple of years ago, I was playing right field, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Refsnyder had two stints in the majors last year and he started at second against lefties from Sept. 24 on, batting .379 with a .586 slugging percentage in nine games. He even started the American League wild card game, going 0-for-3.
The Yankees dealt for Starlin Castro during the offseason to take over the second base job.
Overall, he hit .302 and had an .859 OPS in 43 at-bats. He made one error at second.
Since Refsnyder used to be an outfielder, he’s had to work on defense at second base. Some wonder if he can play the position in the majors.
He’s certainly working at it — Refsnyder said he and coaches such as Jody Reed and Carlos Mendoza have looked at video for ways to improve on defense and “picked up (what) I can improve on and that’s the goal, obviously.”
“He came a long way defensively last year and improved,” said Gary Denbo, the Yankees’ VP of player development. “If he had spent the two years that he spent in the outfield as he was coming up through our system at second base, you’d see a lot more polished player.
“I see an excellent athlete who has a chance to continue his improvement on his defensive game and be a factor for us in the middle of the field at second base.”