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Headley's defense proving better than advertised

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NEW YORK -- The Yankees were well aware of certain defensive statistics that raved about Chase Headley's defense, but in advance of last month's trade with the Padres, the internal reports that crossed general manager Brian Cashman's desk classified the third baseman as only "average" at the position.

Through 15 games with the Yankees, the former National League Gold Glove Award winner has shown himself to be much more than that. Headley has been a stabilizing presence at the hot corner, representing a noticeable upgrade over the defense the Yankees were getting from Yangervis Solarte and Kelly Johnson earlier in the year.

"He's played extremely well for us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Obviously, we didn't get to see him play every day, and sometimes you appreciate a person a lot more when you get a chance to see them every day."

According to Fangraphs.com, Headley ranks fourth among Major League third basemen with 13 defensive runs saved this season, trailing the A's Josh Donaldson (16), the Rockies' Nolan Arenado (15) and the Mets' David Wright (13). Headley is also calculated to have a very sharp 17.3 UZR/150.

In announcing the trade, Cashman obliquely referenced those numbers, but he also said that the Yanks' scouts who watched Headley in person did not necessarily agree with the calculations.

"I think there's some confusion on the metrics about what he really is," Cashman said then. "Our scouts have him as an average third baseman."

With Mark Teixeira out of the lineup on Thursday, Girardi used Headley at first base.

Preparing for the possibility that he could see time on the other side of the diamond, Headley ordered his own first baseman's glove and received it Thursday morning. But the bulk of Headley's time will be seen at third base.

"He has played an outstanding third base; he has an outstanding pair of hands over there, and he's shown the ability to make a lot of tough plays," Girardi said.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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