Pena makes room for Hinske on Yanks
Sent to Triple-A, shortstop asked to start learning outfield
NEW YORK -- The threat of thunderstorms did not deter Eric Hinske's flight to La Guardia Airport, the newest Yankee arriving at Yankee Stadium late Wednesday morning. The Yankees welcomed him, then bid adieu to Ramiro Pena, the player tabbed for a demotion after Hinske's arrival.
Thrilled with what Pena gave them over the first three months of the season, the Yankees sent the shortstop to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a mission -- learn the outfield. Though Pena has not played any outfield position since he was an 11-year-old boy in Mexico, the Yankees foresee him converting into a kind of "super-sub" who can play up to seven positions.
Pena can already play three positions, and he will begin his training in center field immediately.
"They told me I have a chance to be here for a long time," Pena said before cleaning out his locker at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
At that same moment, across the clubhouse, a new tenant was moving in. Hinske, who has played in the World Series in each of the past two seasons, spoke of his desire to return there.
"When you get a taste of winning, it's contagious," Hinske said. "You want it all the time."
That taste disappeared this season in Pittsburgh, where Hinske had signed as a free agent in January. It did not take the veteran long to realize that the contract was a mistake.
Hinske, who has also played for the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays over an eight-year career, said he missed playing in the American League -- and specifically the AL East. Despite his proficiency as a pinch-hitter -- he was batting .333 with three doubles in that role for the Pirates -- Hinske said he felt better suited to a more familiar style of ball.
"I missed the American League," Hinske said. "I missed the way the games are played over here. With the pitchers hitting over there, it's not a one through nine [attack], where any hitter in the lineup can destroy you."
Hinske hopes one of those hitters will be him. In the absence of Pena, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he may use Hinske at third base on days when Alex Rodriguez must rest -- though Cody Ransom started at third base on Wednesday, providing a half-day for Rodriguez at designated hitter.
More often, Hinske should spend his time at the corner-outfield positions and as a pinch-hitter.
"He's accustomed to being in the AL," Girardi said. "We're excited to have him. He's an interesting guy because he can do a lot of different things and play a lot of different positions for you."
That would also be a fitting description for Pena, who made just three errors in 46 games with the Yankees, split between three infield positions. A career .258 hitter in the Minor Leagues, the 23-year-old Pena also exceeded that mark by nine points during his first stint in the Majors.
"I'm pretty happy with what I have done, and I'm pretty happy with me," Pena said. "I feel like I have to go back to play a little more and get more ABs."
"He did more than what we expected," Girardi said. "He was great."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.