LAKELAND, Fla. -- Eight mornings ago, the ink had yet to dry on Neil Walker's Yankees contract, and Tyler Wade was holding court with a group of reporters in front of his George M. Steinbrenner Field locker, offering his authentic reaction: excitement.Regardless of the imported competition, Wade believed that he
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Eight mornings ago, the ink had yet to dry on Neil Walker's Yankees contract, and Tyler Wade was holding court with a group of reporters in front of his George M. Steinbrenner Field locker, offering his authentic reaction: excitement.
Regardless of the imported competition, Wade believed that he was capable of playing his way onto the Opening Day roster. That positive mindset was rewarded after Tuesday's 8-3 Grapefruit League loss to the Tigers, as manager Aaron Boone announced that Wade will indeed come north with the big club.
"I take it day by day, but I'm kind of looking at the bigger picture here," Wade said. "I'm just looking forward to Opening Day and getting after it with the guys."
The 23-year-old Wade has bounced around the diamond this spring, but most of his work has been concentrated at second base, where he has a legitimate chance of being in the season-opening lineup against Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ on March 29.
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With first baseman Greg Bird, shortstop Didi Gregorius and third baseman Brandon Drury locked in as infield starters, second base remains unsettled. Boone said on Tuesday that he was not prepared to announce a starter, raising the possibility that Wade and Walker could share the position.
"I wouldn't necessarily anoint either one of them," Boone said. "I feel like it's just going to be a daily thing. Those guys, I feel like, will be getting regular playing time all the time. I just think their skill sets complement each other. You could see them both in the game every day, whether they're sharing a position or somewhere else."
A double and a triple in three at-bats on Tuesday raised Wade's Grapefruit League average to .316, coming off a year in which he was used sparingly and produced a .155 mark in 58 big league at-bats. Then he picked up hitting tips from Jose Pujols during a series of workouts in Santa Ana, Calif.
"I'm just trying to be consistent," Wade said. "That's the name of the game. For me, it's coming in each and every day, making sure my at-bats are consistent and my defense is consistent. I feel like that will translate well to the regular season."
Primarily a second baseman over his nine-year big league career with the Pirates, Mets and Brewers, the 32-year-old Walker was told that the Yankees envisioned him in a bench role prior to agreeing to a $4 million contract.
Walker has dabbled at three infield positions since arriving in camp, though he has logged just six at-bats, getting a late start after what he called a "crazy " offseason. That Wade maintains a perceived advantage over the switch-hitting Walker, who compiled an .801 OPS in 111 games last season, speaks to how impressed the Yanks have been by Wade.
Boone has said that Wade is a "better player than I thought he was," and he added on Tuesday that the left-handed-hitting Wade has shown enough in camp to earn opportunities against left-handed pitching despite Walker's presence.
Wade said that he and Walker recently spoke about their respective situations.
"We talked: 'Hey, we're in this together. We're both going to help this team win a championship,'" Wade said. "That's the good thing about Neil and myself. We're both ultra-competitors, but we understand our roles on this team. That's going to help us in different ways."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.