Yankees triple play completed by novice first baseman's great pick

David Brown
April 18, 2014

After missing most of the past two seasons because of catastrophic injuries to the same knee, Scott Sizemore returned to the majors just in time to help the New York Yankees turn a triple play. And at a position where Sizemore has practically no experience.

Playing first base for the first time in his professional career, a span of 659 games and eight-plus years, Sizemore made a terrific scoop of a relay throw by second baseman Brian Roberts to complete a 5-4-3 triple play against the Tampa Bay Rays. Sizemore's pick punctuated a 10-2 victory Thursday night for the Yankees and left-hander CC Sabathia.

The Yankees have turned 24 triple plays in their history, including three since 2010 with Sabathia on the hill.

Personally, it had to be thrilling for Sizemore, 29, to be thrown into the fire and come through. His first game of the season came Wednesday, a start at third base at Yankee Stadium, after beginning in the minors after being a non-roster invitee to spring training. The Yankees saw something in Sizemore, who also has played for the Athletics and Tigers: They issued him No. 24 — Robinson Cano's old number. His first big play for the Yankees wasn't worth $240 million, but it was pretty slick. Regardless, just getting back to the bigs, after not playing in 2012 and making two appearances in 2013 because he tore the ACL in his left knee for a second time in as many years, is an accomplishment by itself.

Via NJ.com, Sizemore said on Wednesday:

“I guess I’m pretty proud of my perseverance,” Sizemore said before the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. “It’s not an easy trip to rehab two years in a row.”

Sizemore says his knee feels about "95 percent" healthy. A second baseman and third baseman by trade, Sizemore started at first because of injuries to Mark Teixeira and others. First base is considered to be an easier position than second or third, but that doesn't make it easy to play. A first baseman's glove looks more like a catcher's mitt than it does the glove for other positions. Adding to the degree of difficulty, Sizemore's first-base debut came at Tropicana Field, one of the tougher spots to play defense, in general, for visiting players.

The Yankees had a 4-0 lead on Tampa Bay ace David Price in the second, but the Rays put their first two runners on against Sabathia. Sean Rodriguez hit a sharp grounder to third, where Yangervis Solarte (another fill-in) took two quick steps to his right and stepped on the bag before firing to Roberts, who had a runner bearing down on him at second and couldn't get enough on the relay to reach Sizemore's mitt on the fly. But Sizemore's pick on Roberts's throw, a tough-looking short-hop, was handled as smoothly as any other first baseman could have done it.

Around the horn they went.

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Via MLB.com, Roberts said he wasn't worried about it being Sizemore's first game at first because he watched him take grounders there during batting practice — which Sizemore also did in the minors, though without getting in any games.

When the time came, Sizemore recognized the triple-play opportunity.

"I saw it developing, and I just said, 'I've got to catch this one at all costs,'" Sizemore said. "So I managed to dig it out of the dirt and finish it off."

Sizemore said that it was not too difficult to corral Roberts' throw.

"I guess it's never easy when it's in the dirt, but that wasn't a tougher one," he said. "Usually a short hop, you can kind of see it and go get it. On a one-to-10 scale, it was maybe a four."

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Oh, whatever, Sizemore. Sabathia would not agree.

"Solarte made a great play, and Sizemore made an even better play on the pick at first," Sabathia said.

If three triple plays in four seasons for one team with the same pitcher on the mound seems freakishly frequent — it is. Before this recent cluster, the Yankees hadn't turned a triple play at all since 1968.

"I'm lucky, man. Unbelievable," Sabathia said. "I'm just trying to make a pitch and get a double play."

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David Brown edits Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

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