LAKELAND, Fla. — Gio Urshela had set up in the shortstop spot occasionally over the past two seasons when the Yankees used the shift.
But what happened Tuesday was different, with Urshela actually playing the position for the first time since he was with Toronto in 2018.
He looked natural there in a 7-4 win over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium, saying afterwards he “felt really good. Better than I thought [I would].”
Before the game, Aaron Boone said using Urshela at short was something he would consider “in a pinch,’’ but as they figure out how to put their roster together, his ability to play there may be something worth watching.
Urshela fielded Miguel Cabrera’s routine grounder and flipped to second for the force out to end the first. He made another play look easy in the sixth, firing a strong throw to first.
“Hit it to him and you’re out,” Boone said after the game. “There wasn’t a lot to necessarily judge him on, but he handled two plays flawlessly, like we would expect.”
Urshela last played short three years ago, when he appeared in eight games at the spot with the Blue Jays. He’s played 13 games there in the majors, as well as five at second base.
“It’s something he’s comfortable doing,” Boone said of going to shortstop. “Same side of the field. With shifts and all, it’s a place he’s [played].”
Urshela is coming off elbow surgery to remove a bone chip in December and has shown no ill effects from the procedure this spring, making strong throws from third base.
The arm was no issue in the one throw Urshela had to make to first.
“I can make the throw from there just like I can from third,” Urshela said.
With Gleyber Torres the starting shortstop, Tyler Wade has filled in. Against the Tigers, Wade was at second, with Derek Dietrich — in camp on a minor league deal — at third. Wade, who had been seen as the team’s top option to fill in for Torres at short, later moved to left field.
Despite his defensive versatility, Wade has yet to show he can hit consistently at this level.
“It’s just something I wanted to do this spring,” Boone said of Urshela. “In case we ever get in a pinch or we’re in a situation where we need to move him over there for a day.”
Asked if Urshela could end up serving as the primary backup at the position, Boone didn’t say no.
“You never know how the season unfolds and injuries happen,” Boone said. “The more versatility you can create, [the better]. I don’t feel like this is something drastic we’re doing with Gio. I think it’s very easy to [say], ‘Slide over, you’re playing short the whole day today’ and to keep that option open so that any point in the year we get in a situation, just feel a little more comfortable that he’s been there and done it.”
Urshela — who has emerged as a solid player on both sides of the ball since the Yankees purchased his contract from the Blue Jays in August 2018 and took over at third after Miguel Andujar went down with a shoulder injury early the following season — was open to the idea of playing more than just third.
“Whenever Boone wants to use me, I could play shortstop,’’ said Urshela, who added a pair of singles Tuesday. “I can play second base. I’m ready to play any position.”