3/9/2014 7:02 P.M. ET
Versatile Johnson gets work in at first base
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- Kelly Johnson has been up for any challenges the Yankees toss his way this spring, including strapping on the glove at first base, but Johnson would prefer if Mark Teixeira still is able to handle the position as much as possible.
"I told Tex, he's got 162," Johnson said. "You never know how it's going to play out. You guys know, after last year here, you just can't really predict stuff. I'm not going to worry about it, but I'm going to still get the early work and do what I need to do just in case."
Johnson started at first base for the Yankees on Sunday, his first game there this spring. Johnson's afternoon ended after Rays reliever Jeff Beliveau drilled him in the back with a pitch, and manager Joe Girardi said that Johnson had the wind knocked out of him.
The plunking wrapped up an eventful day for Johnson, who said that it felt "all right" to be at the position, where he has played just three career big league games.
While Johnson is being looked at as the leading candidate to be New York's Opening Day third baseman, he is also getting some reps at second base, first base and left field. Johnson and Teixeira spoke last week about some of the footwork needed to play first base.
"I think it's just picking up the speed of the game at those spots," Johnson said. "You're closer. Any time it's new, your mind is kind of moving fast. Third base has already started to slow down a little bit more. I'm feeling better. First base is one of those I probably won't get to play enough over there, but every little bit helps."
Jeter gets multiple chances in field against Rays
TAMPA, Fla. -- There have been plenty of opportunities for Derek Jeter to test his surgically repaired left ankle this spring, and the Yankees shortstop had a particularly busy day at the office on Sunday.
Jeter participated in five of the first nine outs that David Phelps recorded against the Rays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. He also turned a double play during six innings in the field, finishing the afternoon 0-for-3 at the plate.
"Yeah, I've been getting a lot of work," Jeter said. "Everything's good. ... I just want to get comfortable. That's like every other year you're here. I don't have any particular checklist that I have; just playing more and more."
Jeter made a nice play coming in on a Cole Figueroa chopper in the second inning, grabbing the ball on a short hop and fluidly whipping it to first base. Those are the types of plays that Jeter has worked on during batting practice and on the back fields, but he hasn't had chances to do them all in games.
"Every time you get an opportunity to do different types of plays, it's good," Jeter said. "I feel as though I've worked on everything; I may not have done it in a game, but I've worked on everything. Now it's just a matter of doing it in games."
When the Yankees shifted against left-handed batters on Sunday, Jeter stayed on the left side of the infield while third baseman Yangervis Solarte went to the right side of the field. Jeter said that he'd prefer to guard the left side of the field, even if he is dislodged from his usual shortstop spot.
"It feels worse for me if I'm on the other side of second. That's something [where] I'm all thrown off," Jeter said. "It's like looking in a mirror and everything is backwards. Alex [Rodriguez] didn't like it either, so I was pretty much forced to do it in the past, but now the guys that are playing third have played second as well. It's a little odd when you're in close, but it feels better than the other side."
Jeter opened the spring hitless in his first 10 at-bats before stringing together four straight hits, including a double. The captain is hitting .235 (4-for-17) through his first seven games, which includes a hard liner on Sunday that could have been a double but wound up in the glove of Rays first baseman James Loney.
"The results are probably the last thing that's on my mind," Jeter said. "It's just seeing the ball and swinging at strikes and progressing from there. I don't really look at the results, it's just a feel thing."
Ryan says back soreness not a serious issue
TAMPA, Fla. -- Brendan Ryan is not expected to play until the middle of next week due to soreness in his lower back, but the Yankees infielder does not think that it will develop into a serious issue.
"I'd say they're being cautious, to say the least," Ryan said. "This is only happening because it's March; really quite a small deal. I felt a little spot when I was rotating, that was it."
Ryan had two MRIs last week after reporting the soreness, which he believed comes from swinging the bat too much. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Ryan would be re-evaluated on Tuesday; Ryan hopes to resume playing on Wednesday, but Girardi indicated that it will probably take a little bit longer.
• The Yankees made their first cuts of camp on Sunday, as right-hander Jose Ramirez was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and left-hander Francisco Rondon was reassigned to Minor League camp. Both players were injured early in camp and have been unable to pitch; Ramirez had a sore back and Rondon had a sore shoulder.
• David Phelps wasn't about to argue with five scoreless innings of three-hit ball on Sunday against the Rays, but the Yankees right-hander said that he actually might have been sharper earlier in the spring.
"It's just a matter of having the ball down in the zone," Phelps said. "I was down in the zone today with my fastball and some other pitches, just getting ground balls. That's what I'm trying to do."