With a set position, Solarte focused on nuance

With a set position, Solarte focused on nuance

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For Padres third baseman Yangervis Solarte, this year's camp is different than any he's ever experienced.

Solarte came to Peoria last spring as the club's super-utility man, capable of playing all four infield positions -- and expected to be able to do so at a moment's notice. (He entered Yankees camp the same way in 2014.)

Now that he's firmly established as the Padres' third baseman, his workload hasn't decreased. It's simply become more nuanced, more focused and more compartmentalized to one spot on the diamond.

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"It's a little more easy," Solarte said. "You go to only one position in practice. You're only making adjustments at this position. But if they need me at whatever position, I can figure it out, too."

During the first half of last season, Solarte spent significant time at first base and second base. He didn't settle into the third-base job for good until after the All-Star break.

Perhaps it was coincidence, but that's exactly when he broke out at the plate.

First half: .248/.304/.385, 5 HRs
Second half: .292/.336/.470, 9 HRs

"Nothing changed -- It was just my mind being strong," he said. "I come to the stadium, be positive every day, wait for my opportunity. I took my opportunity.

"The first three months, I didn't play like that. I was playing second base, first base, a little pinch-hitter. It was a little difficult. But in the second half, they gave me the opportunity, and I played hard every day."

Once Solarte was given the keys to third base, he began hitting the ball significantly harder, according to Statcast™.

From the Padres' perspective, Solarte's progression to an everyday job is evidence that they won the Chase Headley trade from July 2014. Headley hit free agency after that season and would not have returned to San Diego.

In his place, the Padres received their current third baseman -- one who is three years younger and has four years remaining of team control.

Defensively, metrics had Solarte pegged as a slightly-below-average third baseman last season (in an admittedly small sample size). That's to be somewhat expected for a player who could never really get comfortable at one spot.

But now that Solarte has an entire spring to work on his craft at his position, manager Andy Green thinks that could change.

"He's done a good job of realizing that there's more to the position than just standing there and catching the ball," Green said. "There's responsibilities when it comes to cutoffs, there's responsibilities when you've got bag coverage, there's responsibilities with the shift. A lot of that stuff hadn't been put on him, partially because he'd been moved around so much in the past -- but also just the in-depth intricacies of the position have been difficult for a guy that's all over the place. Now ... He's locked in."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.