Is Isiah Kiner-Falefa moving to Yankees center field?

Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa is throwing a field in Yankees Stadium

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LAKELAND, Fla. — Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the Yankees’ starting shortstop for 2022, became the super-utilityman on Friday. He played in the center field for six mostly good innings with a new outfield glove that isn’t quite broken in yet. Two other contenders for the Yankees shortstop competition, Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza began at shortstop and second base respectively.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa got over his nerves early by catching the first two outs of the game, which ended in an 8-7 loss to the Tigers at Publix Field. He then played center, a position he hadn’t played since a Double-A game in 2017, and looked pretty natural.

Does this mean Isiah Kiner-Falefa has moved away from the shortstop contention to the center field and that could be his new role?

But there were a few times when his lack of experience showed.

“I feel like I got tested in every way today for the most part,” Kiner-Falefa said.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa showed right away that he could get easy outs by getting Austin Meadows and Jonathan Schoop out with easy-fly balls to start the game.

Three batters later, with runners on first and second, Andre Lipcius hit a single to right-center. Isiah Kiner-Falefa ran in and to his left, grabbed the ball, and threw it with a strong arm. His wrong and late throw allowed Nick Maton to move to third.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa
NJ.com

Isiah Kiner-Falefa said he was happy with his arm and that he thinks it will help him make better decisions.

“I probably should’ve thrown to third,” said Kiner-Falefa, who also has played second, third, and shortstop this spring. “But I was happy to just get an opportunity to throw the ball.”

His next mistake was also a psychological one. Colt Keith of Detroit hit a bloop into shallow left-center in the third inning. Volpe, who was at shortstop, stepped back because he wasn’t sure what to do, and Aaron Hicks ran from left field. Hicks finally called for it, but he wasn’t able to finish what would have been an amazing, falling catch. Keith got a triple in the end.

“That was probably my ball. I lined up on the wrong side,” said Isiah Kiner-Falefa. “That was the one time I messed up my alignment. That can’t happen in the real game.”

The box score doesn’t show any mistakes, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa thinks that such mental slip-ups can be fixed by spending more time in the center. He said that he feels comfortable there, and it’s possible that the Yankees will put him in the center in one of the first games of the regular season.

Bella with Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Charles Wenzelberg/NYP

Harrison Bader‘s oblique injury will keep him out for at least a few weeks to start the season, and the Yankees don’t want to put Aaron Judge at risk by playing him every day in the center.

Aaron Boone, the team’s manager, highlighted Isiah Kine-Falefa’s speed and footwork, calling Friday a “good start.”

“I believe him moving around is something that not only will serve us well, but I think he’s cut out for it,” Boone said of Kiner-Falefa.

Is it Isiah Kiner-Falefa vs Pereza now?

Isiah Kiner-Falefa is 6-for-25 (.240) with a home run and four steals in the Grapefruit League. He isn’t done playing shortstop and should return there on Saturday as the Yankees see how well he can switch between positions.

Yet, with Peraza and Volpe battling for the Opening Day job, Kiner-Falefa looks to be their third shortstop option for now.

The Associated Press

Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Oswaldo Cabrera will be competing for a utility role. Boone has said that he could see both flexible fielders making the team.

“You see guys like [the Dodgers’] Chris Taylor, Cabrera, [the Red Sox’s] Kiké [Hernandez],” said Kiner-Falefa. “The good teams had multiple guys like that. It wasn’t just one guy.”

The 27-year-old had a hard first season in The Bronx and got used to being booed. He has now accepted his new life. Isiah Kiner-Falefa wants to help the Yankees in other ways if they don’t want him to play shortstop.

“That’s the thing about Izzy since he’s gotten here,” Boone said. “He just wants to win, and he wants to win in pinstripes.”

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