Oliberto Looking To Prove Himself

Oliberto has hit just .154 in his first 7 games

STATEN ISLAND, NY - For Mikeson Oliberto, starting the season in Staten Island after sustaining an offseason injury means he has much to prove to the Yankee organization, and to himself.

After spending much of the offseason retaining his physical health, Oliberto was unsure if he would make it to Staten Island.

"I didn't know I was going to make the team," he said through a translator. "I needed to show that I was ready to come back."

The 22-year old Dominican outfielder signed with the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in July 2010, spending his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League followed by one year in the Gulf Coast League in Tampa, Florida. After an impressive 2012 season in which he had 48 hits in 48 games, including 19 extra base hits and a .342 on-base percentage, Oliberto suffered a setback with an injury to his lower back.

His slow and steady regimen has been effective in getting him healthy and comfortable in the outfield and at the plate.

"I was out for something like 58 days without doing much," he said. "I was in therapy for 40 days, and 18 days making one throw per day to home plate."

While he looks to impress his coaches in Staten Island, Oliberto's main goal is to stay healthy so he can remain at the single-A level.

"I feel very confident because I've worked hard to get here and am doing everything I can to stay healthy," he said.

Oliberto possesses talents that every coach looks for in an outfielder. His speed enables him to cover a lot of ground, and his strong arm allows him to gun down runners.

His physical condition was tested early when he started in right field in Staten Island's third game of the season. With a runner on second in the sixth inning, Oliberto tracked down a single to right and fired a one-hop strike to catcher Isaias Tejeda, who received the ball in time to record the out.

"My arm feels great," he said after the game.

Though centerfield is his most comfortable position, Oliberto believes that he can develop his game anywhere in the outfield.

"I have to keep working on my reach and try to cover the field," he said.

Staten Island manager Justin Pope placed Oliberto in the starting role to replace an injured Daniel Lopez. In his post-game remarks, he acknowledged Oliberto's ability with the glove and at the plate.

"It's good to have him out there," Pope said. "He's a good outfielder and he can track some balls down. He's got potential at the plate, he just has to stay within himself, think about getting good pitches to hit, and not chase the ball out of the zone so much. He's going to be a good player."

Oliberto's philosophy is to put forth maximum effort everyday, but he knows that he needs to be careful not to re-agitate his back.

"My strength is that I play hard everyday and give everything I have," he said. "Right now I don't really have a weakness, but I'm afraid to go back to that injury."

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