DENVER -- Manager Joe Girardi reiterated that Wednesday night he was looking to pinch-hit Travis Hafner "in a big spot, and you look for that chance with a guy like that." That spot came in the ninth with one out and the bases loaded, and when Girardi pinch hit Hafner for third baseman Chris Nelson, it led to Vernon Wells playing third base for the first time at any level.
Hafner struck out, but the Yankees beat the Rockies, 3-2, with Wells scoring the winning run on an infield single and an extremely close play at first base on a grounder that pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch hit.
The victory was the latest for the undermanned Yankees, who have embraced an all-hands-on-deck approach.
"It's nice," Girardi said. "They understand that we might have to do a few things different just because of the way our roster is constructed. And our lineup is kind of heavily left-handed and we're short an infielder [with Eduardo Nunez unavailable because of rib cage tightness].
"We're having to do some different things. I'm glad they're embracing it. I think it's fun for them. It's a long year. It's a grind. And sometimes when you're in the same spot all the time and you get a chance to move a little bit, they get excited about it. I don't really want to make a habit of it."
Yanks prank Cano after 1,500th hit
DENVER -- Second baseman Robinson Cano reached a milestone in the third inning Thursday with the 1,500th hit of his Major League career. Cano grounded a ball up the middle that second baseman Josh Rutledge made a nice play on to stop, but Cano easily beat the throw.
"It means a lot," Cano said of reaching 1,500 hits. "It's one of the dreams come true. When you get to the big leagues, you want to be successful."
Upon returning to the dugout, Cano was presented with a baseball to commemorate the milestone. Upon reading the inscription, he realized it was not the real ball. Cano did get a kick out of head athletic trainer Steve Donohue's message on the fake ball: "1500 hopper through the infield."
Cano added a solo homer in the fifth, following a nearly two-hour rain delay, and finished the 3-1 victory 2-for-4.
Cano, 30, made his Major League debut on May 3, 2005, at Tampa Bay. One day later, in his first at-bat, Cano, a four-time All-Star, singled in the third inning off Hideo Nomo for his first Major League hit.
Wells calls playing third 'fun moment'
DENVER -- The morning after he played third base for the very first time, Vernon Wells was still relishing the experience.
"I had a blast," he said. "It was like being a kid again, playing a new position. Especially in a critical situation, the best closer in the world on the mound."
Before Mariano Rivera took the mound to pitch the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday, Wells was warming up, fielding ground balls from first baseman Lyle Overbay, who said it "felt like batting practice."
That's because Wells, an outfielder, occasionally takes ground balls during batting practice to keep his hands loose and makes throws to first base.
"There's been a couple times where I've been there, and he's throwing them," Overbay said. "I just laugh, thinking I'd say it's 99.9 percent sure that'll never happen, he's just having fun. You think you've seen it all."
Wells said he heard from a host of players, including pitcher Dan Haren, a teammate when both he and Wells played with the Angels.
Haren sent a text with a picture of the recorded play-by-play of the bottom of the ninth, showing that Carlos Gonzalez grounded to Wells at third base.
"I was near the top throwing to Lyle Overbay, which obviously doesn't look right," Wells said. "It was a fun moment, that's for sure."
Claiborne impressive in first relief outings
DENVER -- Reliever Preston Claiborne pitched three perfect innings in his first three Major League appearances, including Wednesday night, when he pitched the seventh in a game tied at 2. He ended the inning by striking out Todd Helton for his first Major League strikeout.
"He's been in some tough situations," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's not like we put him in when we're down six runs to just go out and get some work. He's done a really good job. And sometimes pitchers can be intimidated pitching here [at Coors Field], too. You hear a lot of things -- the breaking balls don't break the same. But I've been really impressed with what he's doing."
Claiborne gave up three singles, but induced a double play, in the seventh inning before being pulled in Thursday's 3-1 victory over the Rockies
Nunez out of lineup for Thursday's finale
DENVER -- Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez (left rib cage tightness) could not get on the field Thursday before the game against the Rockies abecause of rain that caused batting practice to be canceled.
Manager Joe Girardi said if Nunez "says he's OK," he might be used "in case of an emergency."
"He feels better," Girardi said. "He's able to do some exercises. But you're really not going to know, I think, until he swings a bat."
Nunez last played Sunday when he left the game in the fifth inning. Girardi said he hoped Nunez might be ready Friday in Kansas City but wasn't sure.
"Rib cages are tricky," Girardi said, "so you got to be sure he's OK before he goes out there."
• Girardi thinks reliever Joba Chamberlain (right oblique strain) might be activated on Tuesday when he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list.
"He says he feels better, and he's playing catch," Girardi said. "But until he gets off a mound and turns it up a little bit, you're really not going to know."
• Closer Mariano Rivera, who made his first appearance at Coors Field on Wednesday night, has pitched in 35 stadiums and has recorded a save in 31.
• The Yankees entered Thursday having stolen 14 consecutive bases and had been caught just once in their past 18 steal attempts
Jack Etkin is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.