Hot-hitting Solarte keeping eye on the ball
NEW YORK -- Yangervis Solarte doesn't want to look up. The numbers are blasted in high definition, each one taller than his 5-foot-11 frame, and they scream this fact: Solarte is the top hitter in the American League, owning a .336 batting average coming into play on Thursday.
"I don't even want to talk about it," Solarte said, waving off a questioner at his Citi Field locker. "If you want to go to the stadium, you love to play, you don't worry about the numbers. If you see the numbers, it's like, 'Oh my God.' It's difficult for me. I don't want to see the screen."
Solarte's average is the fourth-best in the Majors coming into Thursday, trailing the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki (.391), the Phillies' Chase Utley (.343) and the Padres' Seth Smith (.336). Solarte also leads the Yankees with 23 RBIs and has a .414 on-base percentage, good for third in the AL.
"It's become a running joke pretty much in our dugout about [Solarte being] the best player I've ever seen at this point," Brian Roberts said. "It's a great story. It's fun to watch. To do what he's doing, it's tough to do. It's tough to hit .350 in this league for two months. He's been huge for us."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that his initial scouting report on Solarte was that he "could have an impact as an extra player," being a switch-hitter who played second and third bases well. Wearing No. 89 as a non-roster invitee in Spring Training, the Yankees were thinking of Solarte as a utility player, not a league-leading hitter.
"I'm not sure anybody would have predicted the impact he's had in the first six weeks," Girardi said. "But if you watched him day in and day out in Spring Training, we're seeing a lot of the same of what we saw."
And now Solarte's biggest challenge may be keeping his focus on the pitcher, ignoring the larger-than-life numbers being broadcast above.
"The screens, they're so horrible," Solarte said. "I love to just play. I want to play."