Ensberg nets spot with Yanks for now
New York adds veteran to 40-man roster after Friday's game
TAMPA, Fla. -- Morgan Ensberg is a product of Southern California's beaches, and his greatest successes took place on baseball fields in Houston. But there was always something about New York that seemed fascinating, alluring and appealing.
Even before the Yankees were a realistic option, Ensberg had discussed with his wife, Christi, the possibility of one day moving to the Big Apple after his playing days were completed, finding an apartment somewhere near Central Park and seeing just what the big city had to offer.
He may not have to wait that long. The Yankees gave Ensberg a vote of confidence on Friday, adding him to their 40-man roster after a 2-1 victory over the Rays at Legends Field. The move came just hours before Ensberg could have declared free agency through an out in his Minor League contract.
"It's just incredible news," Ensberg said. "You always wonder whether or not you've shown them enough, and even if that is the case, whether or not there's room. It's just great, great, great news."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that the move did not necessarily indicate that Ensberg, 32, had made the 25-man roster, but that appears to be a formality.
Ensberg is out of Minor League options and, even after going 0-for-4 on Friday to drop his spring average to .270, he has showed enough at the plate and in the field to convince the Yankees that he can be a serviceable player. If he is on the Major League roster, he will earn $1.75 million.
"We're happy with what he's done," Girardi said. "There's still a lot of decisions to be made over the next eight days, but we liked what we saw."
Ensberg's best year came with Houston in 2005, when he slugged 36 homers and was voted the Astros' Most Valuable Player. He suffered a shoulder injury while diving for a foul ball in July 2006 and never really recovered, splitting last season between the Astros and Padres before looking for a new place to latch on.
Though he claims three big league clubs presented his agent, Joe Sambito, with offers where Ensberg could have played third base on an everyday basis, the veteran said he found the Yankees' call most alluring. With reigning American League MVP Alex Rodriguez at the hot corner, the Yankees had no need for another third baseman, but they had room for a reliable glove at first base, where Jason Giambi, Shelley Duncan and Wilson Betemit were also penciled in for playing time.
"I would never have thought that would be an option," Ensberg said. "I'd always considered myself to be a third baseman. I just hadn't thought of it in those terms. When the Yankees called, I got really excited. After sitting down and taking a hard look at it, I just felt like if I got in this lineup and make this team, I could really help out."
Girardi said that Ensberg could see playing time at both corners, as well as at second base in a pinch and also as a designated hitter. When Ensberg signed his deal with the Yankees, general manager Brian Cashman called him "a right-handed bat in a land of lefties," and Girardi confirmed that Ensberg's plate side had helped in the decision.
"We're going to face a lot of left-handed starters," Girardi said. "You look at the Red Sox, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Cleveland and the White Sox. Especially early on, we're going to see a lot of these teams that have a lot of those left-handers."
Working extensively with hitting coach Kevin Long, Ensberg has whittled his batting stance down to one set go-to motion. He has also been able to do away with a variety of hand positions, leaving him marveling at how he was ever able to hit 36 home runs "without knowing what I was doing."
"This has no question benefited my career," Ensberg said. "I can tell you I'm a different player right now just by working with Kevin Long. It's that drastic. He really has a way to explain things.
"He's been able to get me down to a bare-bones approach that's been great for me. I've gotten hard hits, but I've also made good outs. I think that's pretty much all you can do in a three-week span."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.