Rob Refsnyder making a play he has made plenty lately — a diving stop. Times-Tribune photo by Jake Danna Stevens
Even in this age of defensive metrics, Rob Refsnyder doesn’t know if there’s a way to quantify how much range he has gained in recent months. They can probably figure it out in Tampa, he said. God knows they have the numbers, and now, they have the video, too. But right here and right now, the RailRiders’ second baseman just knows how he feels.
And he feels, in a word, “explosive.”
Tonight, Refsnyder made a pair of eye-opening plays up the middle, critical stops of potential Lehigh Valley hits in a critical game the RailRiders won by the slimmest of margins, 2-1.
“When (Yankees infield instructor) Carlos Mendoza was in town, we worked on some things, and I think it has helped out my range,” Refsnyder said. “I’ve been getting to some balls I wasn’t able to get to earlier in the year. I’ve been feeling really comfortable. I’m feeling as good as I have at any point this year, and I think it’s reflecting in some of the plays I’ve been making.
“I’m kind of excited for the future, to be honest.”
Here’s the big one:
That play came in the third inning. The game was still scoreless at the time. Chase d’Arnaud had singled to center on the pitch before, and Tyler Pastornicky hit a bullet up the middle. If it goes through, it’s two on and nobody out, and Brady Lail is in serious trouble.
But obviously, it didn’t go through. Refsnyder made the dive, the stop and the glove flip to Gregorio Petit, who made a heck of a turn to get Pastornicky in time at first for a double play. A huge double play, mind you, because the next batter, Brian Bogusevic, hit a home run.
“That’s a tough play, when you go to the middle and then have to come back and throw the ball at the opposite angle,” said Petit, who knows a thing or two about making the spectacular play.
Refsnyder has been making it look easier lately. Those types of grounders up the middle are ones he has been getting to more regularly. Last year, they were singles up the middle. Not anymore.
Bouncers up the middle. Hard shots. Doesn’t matter. He gloved one off the bat of Tommy Joseph leading off the seventh. Fielded it on the hop, on the run, threw to first off-balance. Made the play.
For a guy whose defense has been under the Yankees’ microscope this whole season, these were plays that could quiet critics. Yet, they don’t seem to. Meanwhile, Refsnyder says, his only goal is to keep working.
Because, he said, he has seen the results work brings.
Watching video with Mendoza, Refsnyder said they both noticed his stance got “kind of low” before he took his first step toward the ball.
“I would be on my heels, then pop up for my first step,” he explained. “So we really focused on staying down and being on the balls of my feet. It was just a minor adjustment. But man, do I feel a whole lot better.”
Those plays he has been making more and more often up the middle are the evidence in his mind. When the ball is being hit, he said, a defender can feel when he gets the right jump. And he has been. He said RailRiders infield coach Justin Tordi has been “complimentary,” and Mendoza was, as well. They’re all on the same page, Refsnyder said, when it comes to helping him become the best defender he can be.
“It’s been good,” he said. “It’s been really good.”