Home News Impressed with Ben Rice, Brian Cashman stops short of full-season commitment

Impressed with Ben Rice, Brian Cashman stops short of full-season commitment

ST. PETERSBURG — With the Yankees playing poorly, Brian Cashman chose to make his presence felt at Tropicana Field on Tuesday.

The general manager didn’t have many good things to say about his club before it lost for the 17th time in its last 23 games. However, Cashman made sure to give Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees’ vice president of domestic amateur scouting, some props.

“Nice going,” Cashman told Oppenheimer, who was also at The Trop on Tuesday. “That’s a good one.”

Cashman was referring to Ben Rice, who Oppenheimer heavily scouted in the New England area. The process was unconventional, as Rice played in an assortment of leagues and even helped create his own after the pandemic derailed his collegiate career at Dartmouth.

“Damon Oppenheimer was coincidentally around because his kid was playing junior hockey in the area,” Rice recently told the Daily News. “It was just perfect timing.”

Added Yankees northeast area scout Matt Hyde: “Damon Oppenheimer was around him more than any other scouting director [and] really got to see him.”

Even though Rice only played in 30 games at Dartmouth, the Yankees used a 12th-round pick on him in 2021. That gamble has paid off so far, as the natural catcher has recorded a .267/.348/.567 slash line, five home runs and 14 RBI over his first 19 major league games while adjusting to first base and the leadoff spot.

Boosted by a three-homer game on Saturday and a two-run shot in Tuesday’s loss to the Rays, Rice has been the Yankees’ best hitter not named Juan Soto or Aaron Judge since replacing Anthony Rizzo, who was unproductive before fracturing his arm.

“He’s a great personality with a big stick, and he’s settled in rather well and obviously has been a help,” Cashman said, adding that the Yankees’ player development personnel were confident Rice could handle all that’s been thrown at him prior to his promotion. “So hopefully he’ll continue.”

With the 25-year-old Rice impressing Cashman, it would seem as if first base is no longer a need for the Yankees with the trade deadline looming.

However, Cashman stopped short of a commitment when asked if he’s comfortable with Rice being his first baseman for the rest of the season.

“I like what I’ve seen from Rice, and I feel comfortable running him out there as our first baseman right now because that’s our choice,” Cashman replied. “And he’s handling it rather well. So proud that he’s come up. It’s not easy to come up in the middle of the American League East, and it’s not even his primary position.”

It makes sense that Cashman wouldn’t tip his hand before the trade deadline, but Rice has certainly looked deserving over a small sample. Plus, the Yankees have more glaring concerns.

That includes needs in the bullpen and elsewhere in the infield.

Still, Cashman didn’t want to make any declarations regarding Rice.

“In terms of the future and how things all play out as the season turns, it’s all to be determined,” Cashman said. “But he’s doing a great job for us right now.”


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