Headley out to prove '15 was a mirage

Veteran confident as he enters second season with Yanks

Headley out to prove '15 was a mirage

TAMPA, Fla. -- It could be considered a vote of confidence in Chase Headley's skills that the Yankees abstained from acquiring a backup third baseman in the offseason, coming off a campaign that left the veteran infielder "extremely disappointed" on both sides of the ball.

As Headley returns for a second full season in pinstripes, he is intent upon proving that the 2015 campaign was an outlier in what has otherwise been a solid big league career.

"I think I'm a lot closer to the player I've been for the majority of my career than I was last year, but I don't take it for granted," Headley said. "We've looked at some film, and I think for me it all starts with a base, trying to have good footwork. We'll try to focus on that in Spring Training. I'm certainly not panicked about it."

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Headley batted .259 with 11 home runs and 62 RBIs in 156 games, leading the team with 150 hits, but it was Headley's defense that raised eyebrows most. A Gold Glove Award winner in 2012 while with the Padres, Headley committed a career-high 23 errors last year, including 12 on throws.

"That's certainly not the track record that I've had before," Headley said. "We're going to work hard on it, we're going to focus on it. But mostly, I'm not panicked that all of a sudden I don't know how to catch and throw a baseball."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he thought Headley's throwing issues stemmed from mechanical flaws, and that he did not believe Headley was in the beginning stages of developing any Chuck Knoblauch-esque "yips."

"No, I didn't, because I saw him make a lot of good throws," Girardi said. "I think it starts with your bottom half. It's where you identify throwing issues, and we'll work real hard this spring."

The Yankees seem comfortable that Headley will get those issues under control; while they have mentioned the idea of having Starlin Castro take some ground balls at third base, Castro will have plenty on his plate this spring as he prepares to handle second base.

Rob Refsnyder, who is ranked the club's No. 9 prospect, has said that he is "up for anything" that would help him make the big league roster, and Girardi said the Yankees intend to discuss trying Refsnyder at third base during their meetings on Wednesday. Still, Headley is their "Plan A" at the hot corner.

"I didn't look at any moves they made this offseason as a vote of confidence, but maybe it is," Headley said. "Just the way that they handled it last year and we handled it together led me to believe that they still thought I could do the job."

Headley dealt with back stiffness late in the season, but he said that was not responsible for his defensive inconsistency. This offseason, Headley said that he was able to follow a more regular training program, which could help ward off such issues.

"I was probably a little bit more careful last year," Headley said. "Without really having any issue with it last year, I was able to ramp it up this year and I was able to lift a lot heavier, smarter, than I had in the past. I certainly feel like I'm probably stronger than I was at the same point last year."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.