Duncan Learning A New Position

Eric Duncan, the Yankees' first-round pick in 2003, is learning a new position this spring. A third baseman all his career, Duncan is being shifted to first base. With Alex Rodriguez signed through 2010, it made sense. Duncan had never played first, but he accepted the change.

"He was very upbeat about it, which was good," said manager Joe Torre, who sat down with Duncan at the start of camp to discuss the move. "When you look up and see Alex playing third, you realize it's no slap at you."

Minor league coach Jack Hubbard worked with Eric Duncan on the defensive transition. Now that Hubbard is helping coach The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, Don Mattingly will take over. Duncan admitted the switch has been difficult, especially the footwork. But he has been diligent.

"I'm out there every day working on it," he said. "I think it's a good thing for me."

Duncan, 21, hit only .235 for Double-A Trenton last season and committed 27 errors at third base.

"I had to get a different approach," said Duncan, who also struck out 136 times. "What I was doing mentally wasn't working."

Minor league hitting coordinator Gary Denbo worked with him on simplifying his approach before the Yankees sent Duncan off to the Arizona Fall League. Duncan hit .363 with eight homers and 27 RBIs in 23 games and was named MVP of the league.

"I learned a lot from struggling in Trenton, and Arizona was a confidence-booster," Duncan said. "It put me in a better frame of mind."

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