MILWAUKEE -- Yangervis Solarte entered play on Saturday with 18 RBIs, leading the Yankees and marking the third-highest total among all big league rookies. The 26-year-old's performance has also earned some solid praise from team captain Derek Jeter.
"He's done good, man," Jeter said. "He's been one of our most consistent hitters. He went through a little stretch there where he scuffled, but that happens to everyone.
"Him and Jacoby [Ellsbury] have really been the only two guys who have been consistent for us throughout the first month of the season. He enjoys to be out there. He wants to play. He's not intimidated by anything, and he's done a good job."
Solarte trails only Jose Abreu of the White Sox (37 RBIs) and Nick Castellanos of the Tigers (19 RBIs) among rookies. Solarte leads all qualifying rookies with a .304 (31-for-102) average and a .387 on-base percentage.
"That's what I look up and keep saying; this is the young man leading our team in RBIs," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's obviously had a great first five or six weeks. He's played well and he deserves to be out there."
Solarte made the Yankees' roster after a torrid Spring Training, forcing his way onto the club after being cut loose by both the Twins and Rangers organizations earlier in his career. The Yankees were attracted to his switch-hitting ability, as well as his versatility in being able to play third base, second base, shortstop and the outfield.
"I just want to play," Solarte said. "I'm very excited for the team, for the opportunity. I just want to play and help the team."
Ryan starts for Yankees in place of Jeter
MILWAUKEE -- Brendan Ryan found his name in the Yankees' starting lineup on Saturday, the first time it has appeared there this season. It's also the first time that the infielder is getting the nod as Derek Jeter's understudy.
Ryan joined the Yankees last September after Jeter was already on the disabled list, and he started this season on the shelf himself with a back injury. This marks Ryan's first opportunity to fill the role that prompted New York to offer him a two-year, $5 million contract.
"It's something I couldn't have probably ever dreamed of," Ryan said. "I don't want to make too much of it, because I just want to focus on playing baseball. I'm sure I'll realize how cool it was more accurately after it's over.
"From a player perspective, it's always better to just dumb things down and not get lost in the impact of things and how cool things are in the moment. You want to stay as even-keel as you can, so I probably try not to make too big of a thing of it."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he gave Jeter Saturday off because the club is playing an afternoon game against the Brewers on Sunday at Miller Park. The Brewers are also planning to honor Jeter before Sunday's game, but Girardi said that did not factor into his decision-making.
"I like to play every day," Jeter said. "This game, it's an everyday game, so I don't like days off. But that's nothing new. It's been like that since '96."
Girardi said that he is sure some fans bought tickets to Saturday's game hoping to see Jeter in his final season, but he cannot let that force his hand.
"I'm in a no-win situation," Girardi said. "I have to do what's best for the team and what's best for the player. And I understand people want to see him; I want to see him.
"It's a difficult situation, because I'm sure people bought tickets for tonight. For that, I'm sorry if they bought tickets just to come see Derek. But CC [Sabathia] is pitching -- I know they love CC. But it's a tough situation because I have to manage what's best for everyone."
Ryan batted .220 (13-for-59) in 17 games for the Yankees last September after being acquired from the Mariners in exchange for cash considerations. The defensive standout said that he had been impressed by the Yankees' clubhouse atmosphere, which helped influence his decision.
"There was obviously the you-never-know factor, but looking at the field, there's not a lot of open shortstop jobs out there," Ryan said. "And I was really impressed with what I saw last year, getting traded over here and the way things were done.
"I found it extremely refreshing to be a part of a winning environment again. That's something that I missed since St. Louis. Not to take a shot at Seattle or anything, but it's a lot more fun waking up in the morning when you feel like you're playing for something as a group."
Kelley is day to day, but back feels better
MILWAUKEE -- Yankees right-hander Shawn Kelley reported some improvement with his stiff lower back and is hoping to be available to pitch before the club's series against the Brewers is complete.
"He feels better," manager Joe Girardi said. "My guess is I don't have him again today. I'm hoping I'll get him back again tomorrow. But he felt a lot better today."
Kelley said that he first started to be bothered by the stiffness during the team's series this week against the Angels in Anaheim. A precautionary MRI taken on Friday in Milwaukee revealed no structural damage, and Kelley said that he does not believe a trip to the disabled list will be necessary.
"We'll just take it day by day," Kelley said.
• Over his last six games since May 2, Brian Roberts is batting .375 (9-for-24) with three runs, a double, a home run, four RBIs and a walk.
• The Yankees entered play on Saturday with a 182-123 record in Interleague Play, which leads the Majors in all-time wins. They were also first with a .597 winning percentage.
• On this date in 1936, Joe DiMaggio hit his first Major League home run (off left-hander George Turbeville) as the Yankees posted a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics at Yankee Stadium. DiMaggio went 1-for-4 with three RBIs in the game, playing left field.