Austin Changes Positions For Yankees
NEW YORK—The left side of the Yankees' major league infield has been a neighborhood nobody has been able to invade for a while.
Eduardo Nunez chips away at third base and shortstop, but Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter remain entrenched. New York has traded or repositioned many infielders since 2004, when Rodriguez joined Jeter, the club's shortstop since 1996.
So with Rodriguez signed until 2017, the Yankees moved Tyler Austin from third to right field during an instructional mini-camp in September.
"We have a third baseman with a rather lengthy contract," senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman.
Another reason for the position switch: One of Austin's teammates at low Class A Charleston this year will be third baseman Dante Bichette Jr.
"You have to have enough range, see the ball off the bat and be accurate with your routes, and (Austin) has been," Newman said.
A 20-year-old righthanded batter, Austin joined the organization as a 13th-round pick in the 2010 draft out of Heritage High in Conyers, Ga. He spent last season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and with short-season Staten Island.
As the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Austin adjusts to a new position, the Yankees hope he continues to hit like he did a year ago when he belted 26 extra-base hits in 47 games. He batted .354/.418/.579 with six homers in 178 at-bats in the lowest reaches of the system.
Austin will be part of what is expected to be a very talented Charleston club. "The eight position players we will have there are as good as we have had in a long time on one team," Newman said.
Joining Austin and Bichette will be top prospects Mason Williams, Cito Culver, Gary Sanchez and Angelo Gumbs.
• The first two pitches Bichette saw in big league camp he hit for homers. The first one was helped by the wind, but the second one smashed into the batter's eye in center field at the Astros' Osceola County Stadium. "The second one he really hit. That was special,'' manager Joe Girardi said.
• Both of the Yankees' Rule 5 picks began the season on the major league disabled list. Lefthander Cesar Cabral (elbow fracture) and righthander Brad Meyers (labrum strain) might have made the club as middle relievers.