LAKELAND, Fla. — The final time Isiah Kiner-Falefa performed heart subject in a recreation that counted, he was nonetheless making an attempt to interrupt into the key leagues.
Back on June 17, 2017, “IKF” took to the center of the outfield for the Texas Rangers’ Double-A affiliate, the Frisco RoughRiders. The recreation’s field rating on MiLB.com notes a nondescript fielding error, however a previous and current teammate remembers precisely what occurred.
“Over his head,” Jose Trevino, who caught that recreation, quietly conceded when pressed for particulars. But Trevino added that that was solely Kiner-Falefa’s second — and most up-to-date — skilled look in heart. The different got here on Aug. 5, 2016, additionally for Frisco.
“He did have a little trouble with one of them,” Trevino instructed the Daily News. “But he was fairly new to it. I feel like he’s better now.”
That appeared to be the case on Friday, as Kiner-Falefa returned to heart subject to start out New York’s 8-7 spring coaching loss to the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. An infielder by commerce, the 27-year-old mentioned he felt comfy on a handful of flyballs, together with New York’s first two outs of the sport. He even mentioned the aforementioned error just a few years again, which got here on a ball within the hole, taught him to run smoother routes and preserve his head nonetheless.
“I was a little nervous going into it just because it’s a new position, but I had a lot of fun out there today,” Kiner-Falefa mentioned after exiting Friday’s recreation. “I feel like I got tested in every way today for the most part.”
However, Kiner-Falefa’s afternoon was not with out fault. He mentioned that he ought to have gone to 3rd on a throw residence that was lower off. There was additionally a lazy flyball that fell between shortstop Anthony Volpe and left fielder Aaron Hicks; Kiner-Falefa took duty for the play, as he misinterpret the cardboard he retains useful for defensive alignments.
“They put the spot and you have to kind of do the math to match your steps, because my steps and [Aaron] Judge’s steps are completely different,” Kiner-Falefa mentioned, utilizing a teammate with a considerably bigger shoe dimension to elucidate what went mistaken. “So yeah, I messed that one up today. I was supposed to be on the shortstop side but accidentally lined up on [the second base] side, so I couldn’t get there.”
Added supervisor Aaron Boone, who was in any other case complimentary of Kiner-Falefa’s efficiency in heart: “He’s got to get the card lingo down so he knows where to be.”
Kiner-Falefa only recently started taking reps in heart — he’s nonetheless breaking his outfield glove in — because the Yankees hope he generally is a useful super-utility man after spending his debut season in pinstripes primarily at shortstop.
A lightweight hitter, Kiner-Falefa’s protection at quick damage New York at instances in 2022, and Boone ended up benching him for just a few playoff video games. One of these begins went to prospect Oswald Peraza, who carried out nicely over a small pattern final September. This spring, Peraza and No. 1 prospect Volpe have pushed Kiner-Falefa to the aspect in a contest to be New York’s beginning shortstop.
But Kiner-Falefa’s velocity and flexibility — he’s caught, performed second and received a Gold Glove at third base within the majors — provides worth, which the Yankees are attempting to maximise with this heart subject audition. Boone added that he’ll look to get Kiner-Falefa time on the nook outfield spots as nicely.
“Izzy’s the type of guy that, you tell him to run through a brick wall, he’ll ask you, ‘Which one?’” Trevino instructed The News of his teammate’s willingness to maneuver across the diamond.
Of course, there’s an opportunity that another group advantages from Kiner-Falefa’s rising versatility. With the 2 shortstop prospects each finally anticipated to play up the center and Oswaldo Cabrera additionally providing tremendous utility prowess — DJ LeMahieu can transfer across the infield, too — the Yankees may commerce Kiner-Falefa earlier than Opening Day, or in a while this season.
Boone, nevertheless, has appreciated Kiner-Falefa’s eagerness to do no matter is requested of him.
“That’s the thing about Izzy since he’s gotten here,” the supervisor mentioned. “He just wants to win, and he wants to win in pinstripes. It’s important to him, and he’s worked really hard.”
The method Kiner-Falefa sees it, having a number of versatile gamers will solely assist the Yankees of their pursuit of a championship.
“To have the opportunity to play center field, it’s a big step and I’m excited,” Kiner-Falefa mentioned. “You see guys like Chris Taylor, Cabrera, [Kike Hernandez]. In the last couple of years, the good teams had multiple guys like that. It wasn’t just one guy.”