Girardi: Refsnyder handling 1B 'extremely well'

Girardi: Refsnyder handling 1B 'extremely well'

NEW YORK -- Since the end of May, shoring up first base has been the Yankees' first and only priority.

And with Mark Teixeira, Dustin Ackley and Chris Parmelee all joining Greg Bird on the disabled list within 11 days of one another, the job has fallen to Rob Refsnyder, a jack-of-all-trades utility player who had very little Major League experience prior to May 30, none of which came at first base.

But in Saturday's 6-1 Yankees loss to the Tigers, Refsnyder put together his first well-rounded game as a first baseman, notching two hits and an RBI, as well as 14 putouts defensively.

Coming into Saturday's game, Refsnyder was just 1-for-16 as a big league first baseman. By comparison, at every other position throughout his brief Major League career, Refsnyder was hitting .304, dating back to last July. But the 25-year-old Arizona product claims that the transition to a new position wasn't affecting him at the plate. Rather, he said he believes he was merely a victim of the ebbs and flows of baseball.

"No, I just think it's just baseball," Refsnyder said. "There's ups and downs of hitting."

Girardi on Tanaka, Refsnyder

To Yankees manager Joe Girardi, the idea that Refsnyder's bat will bounce back as he becomes more acclimated to the demands of a new position is a pleasant one.

"I hope so," Girardi said. "It's quite a transition to come in, he's never done it, and say, 'You're going to first base.' I've said, I think he's handled it extremely well."

As well as Refnsyder's handled it, he still hasn't been tested too terribly hard at first base. As Refsnyder explained, changing positions doesn't change the way he views his offensive responsibilities. It's the defense he has to transition to, and first base isn't as simple as just fielding grounders and receiving strikes from shortstops.

Girardi explained Friday that so much of first base can't be simulated. There are bunt reads. There's knowing which pitchers are capable of covering first and which have tougher times getting off the mound. There's feeling out when to flip the ball to first and when to deliver overhand. There's the movement and instinct needed in turning a 3-6-3 double play. And most of that can't be taught. It's learned through experience.

But, on the bright side for Refsnyder, if ever there was a weekend where it could be learned, it would be this one. Sunday is Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees' clubhouse will be flooded with veterans, many of whom played first base and will be able to talk Refsnyder through the ins and outs of his new post.

Refsnyder laughed when presented with the idea of hosting a first-basemen's meeting of the minds as a crash course of infield intelligence. But that doesn't mean he's opposed to the idea.

"That'd be great," Refsnyder said. "I'm sure once they get talking we'll talk a little bit. But no, I've got enough with Joe, and Tex, he's more than enough."

Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.