FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The baseball fan in Anthony Volpe detoured into fantasy on Sunday morning, inspecting a patch of real estate crafted to mimic New England’s living room. As he eyed the Green Monster, including parts of an original Fenway Park scoreboard that once stood sentry behind Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, it was impossible not to think about playing in “The Rivalry” for real.
The baseball player in Volpe simply continued to do what he has done all spring: turn heads. Volpe continued to strengthen his case for making the Opening Day roster by smashing an opposite-field double, then clearing the Boston bullpen with a homer as the Yankees and Red Sox played to a 3-3 Grapefruit League tie at JetBlue Park.
“I think there’s a lot of time left, a lot of games left,” Volpe said. “For me, it’s just trying to take advantage of every opportunity. Having the coaching staff and support staff to work with you and get it right in the games [helps]. It’s definitely early, but everyone wants to perform in the games.”
Despite having only 99 plate appearances at Triple-A under his belt, the 21-year-old Volpe has flashed signs of being ready for The Show, finishing 2-for-4 on Sunday. In nine spring games, Volpe is batting .320 (8-for-25) with three doubles, two homers, four walks and three stolen bases.
“Just really good at-bats for him all day, getting himself in good counts and getting in good swing decisions,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I think it gives you a little peek at how much power he’s got to all fields. … A lot of our guys, especially our established core guys, he’s gotten their attention.”
Volpe’s big hits came off a pair of pitchers with veteran resumes. He touched right-hander Tanner Houck for a second-inning double, a scorched liner that cleared right fielder Rob Refsnyder and rattled up against the wall. In the fifth, Volpe connected for what Boone called “a pretty good poke” off right-hander Chris Martin.
“I definitely liked my approach coming off my first at-bat against Houck,” Volpe said. “He definitely had really good stuff. I wanted to get to the bottom of a two-seam, and it’s nice when your approach matches up and you take a good swing. You get a good result.”
That was impressive to Volpe’s teammates, too; unprompted, outfielder Aaron Hicks asked a group of reporters: “Hey, did you see Volpe’s home run?”
“I definitely appreciate it,” Volpe said. “It’s pretty crazy to think about.”
Boone has also been pleased by Volpe’s defense this spring, remarking: “I think he’s capable of being a big league shortstop. He’s going to play in the middle of the diamond and have a long career.”
Cashman said this week that the club has not yet had formal meetings about its shortstop competition, but Volpe has clearly held his own.
“I’m not surprised he’s played well. He’s here for consideration,” Cashman said. “He’s a really good player. We think he’s got a really bright future. He’s just continuing to do what he’s always done, which is play really well when he’s in games. It’s just a continuation of that. [Vice president and director of amateur scouting] Damon Oppenheimer and his staff deserve a lot of credit for a great pick, and he continues to reinforce why.”
As the idea of Volpe starting at shortstop for the Yankees on March 30 begins to look more realistic, Volpe said that he is still taking the situation “day by day.” That’s no easy task, considering that Volpe’s friends and family members have been flooding his cell phone with congratulatory text messages and video clips of each spring highlight.
“It’s awesome that they’re following,” Volpe said. “If I played bad, they’d probably be pissed at me just because they’re fans. It’s a pretty cool dynamic that we all grew up watching the games, and it’s pretty cool to see how much you’re supported.”