5/22/2014 8:34 P.M. ET
Kelleher envisioned Solarte's potential during camp
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Yangervis Solarte was something of a mystery to most of the Yankees' coaching staff earlier this year, but the versatile switch-hitter made an impression on infield coach Mick Kelleher, who saw great potential in those early days of spring.
"He's hungry. He's a worker. He's a quick learner and a heads-up player," Kelleher said. "None of us knew him, really. He's got a lot of great qualities to have that you look for in a player."
A non-roster invitee to Spring Training, Solarte has been one of the Cinderella stories of the early season, entering play on Thursday ranked fifth in the American League with a .317 (45-for-142) batting average. The 26-year-old, formerly property of the Twins and Rangers organizations, also leads all Yankees with 24 RBIs.
Kelleher hit Solarte countless ground balls at third base, second base and shortstop this spring, and the Yankees also dabbled with using him in left field, thinking of him more as a super-utility player than an everyday starter. Solarte, who has garnered most of his playing time at third, impressed the team with his polished approach and seized the opportunity.
"With his experience in the Minor Leagues, I think that's where he's learned his trade," Kelleher said. "You've seen what he's done. You could probably put him anywhere and he's comfortable. He's confident in his ability. All players here need that. We've all been very impressed with him."
Kelleher pointed out that even though the Yankees couldn't ignore his .429 spring batting average, it still took until the final day of camp for the club to add him to the roster. They were tasked with selecting two players from a group that also included Eduardo Nunez (since traded to the Twins) and Dean Anna, who is now with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
"There was really no clear-cut decision that he was going to make the team," Kelleher said. "That came down to the last day or two between the guys that we were talking about. He had such a great spring, but when you don't know somebody, you've got to be careful in selecting just a Spring Training player. We all liked him and we didn't want to lose him. Shoot, he made the club and I'm glad he did."
Jeter, Ventura trade compliments prior to series
CHICAGO -- Derek Jeter remembers the long ride from Michigan to Chicago's South Side during his high school years, scooping up tickets and watching a White Sox team that fielded Robin Ventura in the starting lineup at third base.
Jeter later played against and with Ventura, and he believes that Ventura's temperament was perfect to handle the responsibilities that go with a move from the lineup to the manager's office. It's still not a career path that Jeter has any interest in pursuing.
"I'm not going to manage," Jeter said. "My temperament would be all right to be a manager, but I'm not. No. Write that down. No."
Jeter has made similar comments numerous times in the past, good-naturedly reiterating the point Thursday to a group of local reporters at U.S. Cellular Field. Jeter has often said that he'd like to call the shots as a team owner.
Should that ever come to pass, Ventura sounds like the kind of candidate Jeter would consider to run his team.
"He was never too high, never too low," Jeter said. "He doesn't seem to panic. He understands the daily grind. He was a great teammate. I enjoyed getting to know him. I played against him with the Mets, the White Sox, and then got an opportunity to play with him.
"I think you'd ask all those guys over there, they'd tell you how much they like playing for him."
In turn, Ventura praised the retiring Yankees captain, saying that he has always had a lot of respect for the veteran shortstop.
"You get more when you play with him and see what he goes through on a daily basis, the pressures and also how successful he's been," Ventura said. "It's just how he interacts with his teammates or the fans. Just his presence has been the most impressive. I have the utmost respect for what he's done. He's always been a class guy."
Pineda to face live hitters in next rehab step
CHICAGO -- Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda is rehabbing in Tampa, Fla., and has been scheduled to pitch to live hitters on Saturday, according to manager Joe Girardi.
"He's progressing like we want," Girardi said. "Everything is going according to plan, so let's keep going forward."
Pineda has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 6 with a right shoulder muscle injury, and has thrown bullpens of 20-30 pitches to this point.
He was 2-2 with a 1.83 ERA in four starts before serving a 10-game suspension, then sustaining an injury while tossing a simulated game in Florida. The Yankees are hoping to have Pineda join the big league rotation in June.
• This marks the Yankees' first trip to U.S. Cellular Field since last August, a visit which was marked by Alex Rodriguez's 2013 season debut, immediately following an appeal of what was then a 211-game suspension.
The suspension was later reduced to 162 games, spanning the complete 2014 campaign. Girardi said that he had not given any thought to Rodriguez's situation. Asked if he had contacted Rodriguez recently, Girardi replied: "I'm not going to say."
• Girardi has been pleased with the work of 23-year-old catcher John Ryan Murphy, who started behind the plate on Thursday to give Brian McCann a break against White Sox left-hander Chris Sale.
"He's improved, there's no doubt about it, but I was pretty impressed with him when he came up last year," Girardi said.
• On this date in 1930, the Yankees and Athletics combined for 33 runs in a 20-13 Yankees win in Philadelphia, which included Lou Gehrig's third and final three-homer game. The total runs remain tied for the Yankees' franchise high.
• On this date in 1963, in an 8-7, 11-inning win over the Kansas City A's, Mickey Mantle hit a walk-off homer off Bill Fischer that hit the upper-deck frieze in right field at Yankee Stadium. It marked the second time in Mantle's career that he hit the frieze.