CHICAGO — Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been struggling of late on defense, committing three errors at shortstop over his last three starts, but Yankees manager Aaron Boone isn't concerned in the slightest.
"No, no. Because I think he is so dynamic and athletic out there that he'll get through this, you know?" Boone said before Saturday's game in Chicago. "Look, the plays that he didn't make [on Friday] night, he's got to make those, but I do think there's a little bit of a field element to that that was going on. It's really soft out there and watching it both sides, there were just really tricky hops out there."
Behind ace Gerrit Cole on Friday night, with outfielder Luis Robert at the dish, Kiner-Falefa booted a double play ball at shortstop in the first inning. The right-hander was able to work out of the frame unscathed, but Kiner-Falefa's blunder nearly led to early runs for the White Sox.
Later in the game, with Robert at the plate against Cole again, Kiner-Falefa wasn't able to throw the speedster out at first base on a routine grounder to short.
Although it wasn't ruled as an error, this miscue did have an impact on the scoreboard. One pitch later, Cole surrendered a two-run home run off the bat of lefty Gavin Sheets and both runs were earned.
After a clean night at short on Saturday, including a slick backhanded stop at one point in the game, Kiner-Falefa has five errors on the season, four in his last 12 games. Asked if players can fall into a slump on defense, Boone agreed that it's possible.
"Yeah, I think you can get into little funks," he said. "I know just speaking from my own experience—where, obviously, you talk about the offensive stuff because it's a game of failure and you go through stretches where you really struggle—there were days or weeks where I didn't feel at my best or in the best rhythm. Sometimes it's playing on a different surface or a surface you're not really comfortable on or getting used to. So yeah, you can go in little funks here and there."
Boone added that he is confident Kiner-Falefa has the skills both physically and mentally to snap out of this recent skid.
"I think he has ability to shake it and part of it is because of his athleticism," the skipper said. "He plays the position with speed and you see his foot speed out there and his quickness. I think that serves him well and will continue to serve him well. And just trust in that to go create the proper hops even when you're playing on a tough surface."
The manager also clarified that the infield in Chicago plays a bit sandy, alluding to some poor weather in the area to start this season.
All things considered, the Yankees have played solid defense across the board this season, an upgrade from last year and a contributor to their historic start. New York was the last MLB team to reach 10 errors on the season a few days ago. Entering play on Sunday, their .989 fielding percentage is the fifth-best mark in baseball.
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