Derek Jeter remains the face of the New York Yankees during his final season in pinstripes. Unfortunately for fans who long for the glory days of the "Core Four," Jeter can sometimes seem like the only familiar face in pinstripes in 2014 due to injury, suspension and free-agent departure.
With Jeter in his usual position of shortstop on Thursday at Tropicana Field, an unlikely group of Yankees infielders turned the unlikeliest play in baseball against the Tampa Bay Rays. Third baseman Yangervis Solarte, second baseman Brian Roberts and first baseman Scott Sizemore turned an impressive 5-4-3 triple play. With runners on first and second in the home second, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia induced a chopper up the third-base line from Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriguez to get the first three-out play of the season started.
Solarte, a 26-year-old rookie from Venezuela, made his MLB debut earlier this season. He was signed by the Minnesota Twins as amateur free agent in 2005 and then bounced around the organization's farm system for six seasons. In 2012 and 2013, Solarte played for the Texas Rangers' Triple-A club. On Thursday in Tampa, he fielded the bouncing ball off the bat of Rodriguez, stepped on third base to force out Evan Longoria. He then fired to second base. With three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez serving a 162-game suspension during the 2014 campaign, the Yankees have already started three players at third base this season.
Roberts received the throw with his foot on the keystone bag. The oft-injured 36-year-old played the first 13 seasons of his MLB career with Baltimore Orioles before joining the Yankees on a one-year contract during the offseason. The Yankees brought Roberts to the Bronx as a second base stopgap after the Seattle Mariners lured away Robinson Cano with a massive contract. After catching the throw from Solarte to force out Wil Myers, Roberts pivoted and sent the ball over to the first baseman.
One of those players used by manager Joe Girardi at the hot corner is Sizemore. On Thursday, the 29-year-old infielder made his first career appearance at first base. He is the fourth player to start at first base in the team's opening 16 games as Mark Teixeira has missed time with a hamstring injury. With a borrowed glove, Sizemore scooped up Roberts' throw to complete the triple play.
This play was undeniably impressive but general manager Brian Cashman isn't likely counting on an infield featuring Solarte, Roberts and Sizemore to get the Yankees one last championship ring before the team needs a new shortstop, too.