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Pena gives Girardi versatility

Pena gives Girardi versatility

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NEW YORK -- Satisfied they would no longer be caught shorthanded in the bullpen, the Yankees on Friday swapped out their 13th pitcher, Anthony Claggett, for a position player, Ramiro Pena. And Pena is not the same player who the Yankees sent down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in June.

Spending some of his time in the Minors learning to play center field, Pena is now capable of helping the Yankees there in a pinch, and he still can play every infield position other than first base. Though he is not entirely comfortable in the outfield -- "I'm still learning, you know?" he said -- Pena can be an option there if needed.

Currently, he stands third on the depth chart behind Melky Cabrera and Jerry Hairston Jr.

"I don't think it will be a tough adjustment for him, just because as a shortstop, you're used to running after fly balls anyway," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He gives us a lot of versatility."

In 46 big league games over the first three months of this season, Pena, 24, endeared himself to New York by batting .267 with 13 runs scored -- decent numbers for a player whose best tool was said to be his defense. He earned steady playing time at third base with Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list, returning to Triple-A only after the Yankees acquired Eric Hinske from the Pirates.

Now, with the pitching staff in fine shape and former third-base backup Cody Ransom designated for assignment, Pena was Girardi's first option to man the last position on his bench.

Pena hit .250 in 33 games at Triple-A.

"It was good for me because I need to play," Pena said. "I'm still young, so they want me to play every day and to keep getting better."

And the Yankees want Pena to become more versatile, even though he won't play much -- if any -- outfield in the Majors. With Pena at least capable of playing in center and Hairston able to fill in at nearly every position on the diamond, the Yankees now have two so-called "super subs" to supplement their everyday lineup.

Pena, a natural shortstop, spent much of his time at Triple-A learning how to position himself in the outfield, and how to track fly balls and line drives -- all in anticipation of a possible center-field assignment in the big leagues.

"If they tell me to, I'll play," Pena said. "But I don't know."

The Yankees earlier this week decided to temporarily keep 13 pitchers on the active roster, in case they needed long relief at some point during a tough portion of their schedule. But after wrapping up a two-game stretch in which neither Sergio Mitre nor Joba Chamberlain pitched more than five innings, the Yankees no longer felt the extra help was necessary.

Claggett, 25, allowed two runs over one inning in his lone appearance, Thursday against the Red Sox.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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