NEW YORK – The two singles and home run on Saturday were sorely needed. Yangervis Solarte had cooled off since a blistering start to the season.
Solarte, a 26-year old rookie infielder, is batting .299 with six homers and 25 RBI for the Yankees. He’s a late bloomer, but if you ask Brian Dozier and Chris Parmelee, they are not surprised the switch-hitting Solarte is in the majors. Both played with Solarte in the minors.
“He could always hit,” Parmelee said. “He could rake, left and right.”
Solarte was signed by the Twins in 2005 out of Valencia, Venezuela. It took him a while to get going, and he had a couple of injury setbacks. But he hit .292 in 84 games between rookie ball, Class A Fort Myers and Class AA New Britain in 2010. He spent all of 2011 at New Britain, where he finished second in the Eastern League with a .329 average.
Defense, however, was his shortcoming. He has a strong arm, but the Twins tried him at second, third and the outfield without settling on a position.
Jim Rantz, then the director of minor league operations, still tried to re-sign Solarte after the 2011 season, but Solarte left to sign with the Rangers organization.
“I know the Twins kind of questioned his defense,” Dozier said. “I think he wanted to play just second base.”
Solarte spent two seasons with the Rangers before signing with the Yankees as a free agent. He made the team out of spring training, batting .429 with two home runs and nine RBI in 24 games.
Coincidentally, in order to put Solarte on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated Eduardo Nunez for assignment. Nunez was claimed by the Twins.
Solarte was thrown out in the sixth while trying to advance to second on a throw to the plate and committed a fielding error in the ninth.
Righthander Phil Hughes met with the New York media on Friday in advance of his start on Sunday. It will be his first appearance at Yankee Stadium since signing with the Twins during the offseason.
Hughes was 56-50 with a 4.53 ERA as a Yankee. He twice won at least 16 games in a season and pitched in the 2010 All-Star Game. But he was 4-14 last season for the Yankees, including 1-10 at home.
“It’s tough when you leave somewhere on such a negative note,” Hughes said.
Hughes hopes to show the Yankees a different pitcher on Sunday. He’s 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA and has faced 175 batters without issuing a walk. He’s working a fastball-cutter combo to near perfection, as he’s throwing the cut fastball nearly 25 percent of the time.
“It might be a little more difficult, but as of right now, my mind-set is just treat it like any other game,” Hughes said. “And the preparation that I’ve taken into my last couple of starts has been pretty good. I’ll try to continue with that.”
Scouting director Deron Johnson and his top assistants have opened the draft room at Target Field and have begun final preparations for the three-day first-year player draft, which starts on Thursday evening.
The Twins are focusing on a small group of players, including righthander Tyler Kolek, from Sheperd (Texas) High; righthander Aaron Nola, from Louisiana State; lefthander Brady Aiken, from Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego; Carlos Rodon, a lefthander from North Carolina State; Nick Gordon, a shortstop from Olympia High School in Orlando, and Alex Jackson, a catcher-outfielder from Rancho Bernardo High School near San Diego.
With no consensus top tier of players, the Twins are preparing for several scenarios.