Notes: Bronx native living childhood dream

Velazquez debuts for Yankees at shortstop; Boone: 'He lights up a room'

August 11th, 2021

reacted at the crack of the bat in the ninth inning of Monday’s wild 8-6, 11-inning Yankees victory, leaping to his left to snare a liner hit by the Royals’ Cam Gallagher. It was the type of sharp play that the Bronx native has spent his whole life dreaming about.

A product of the Morris Park section of the Bronx who starred at Fordham Prep, Velazquez counts himself among the scores of ’90s kids who grew up idolizing Derek Jeter. The 27-year-old is receiving an opportunity to fill in at Jeter’s old position following a left thumb injury to shortstop Gleyber Torres.

“When you envision playing for the Yankees, that’s probably the main position you think about playing,” Velazquez said. “Just being here, I know the team’s been rolling, so being able to contribute in any way I can. And I’m happy we got the ‘W’ [on Monday].”

Velazquez made his big league debut with the Rays in 2018 and has also seen time with the Indians and Orioles. He said that defense and speed are his best attributes, noting that he was swinging the bat well at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where the switch-hitter posted a .283/.367/.471 slash line with seven homers and 43 RBIs in 70 games.

“He played really well in the spring for us,” said manager Aaron Boone. “He lights up a room. We’ve said the word ‘energy’ I feel like 1,000 times over the last month, but he’s another guy that brings just a positive energy to the clubhouse.”

Velazquez said his dream of playing for the Yankees crystallized around age 10, when his parents booked a birthday party at the original Yankee Stadium. He was able to take photos on the field and toured Monument Park, vowing that he’d dedicate himself to getting back to that stage.

“This is something I’ve thought about since I was a child, so it’s amazing to me,” Velazquez said. “I used to have Yankee uniforms when I was a kid. I used to go to the Stadium all the time. I mean, this is where my love for baseball began.”

Vote of confidence
was one of four Yankees relievers charged with a blown save Monday, and the left-hander has pitched to a 5.65 ERA in 14 1/3 innings this season -- a significant drop-off from the sterling 2.14 ERA he posted over his first 2 1/2 seasons with New York.

Yet Boone said he continues to see encouraging signs with the left-hander, who sat between 93-95 mph with his sinker on Monday. Britton has endured COVID-19, left elbow surgery to remove a bone spur and a left hamstring strain this year.

“He's really important to us,” Boone said. “I feel like his last four or five outings have really started to be better. Even in a couple of those where he's given up runs, it's been a little bit like, ‘Man, how’d they score there?’ It's real close to being that Zack Britton where you're on the ground. It's weak contact.”

Bombers bits
• Outfielder Clint Frazier began a Minor League rehab assignment with Low-A Tampa on Tuesday.

• Outfielder Trey Amburgey started a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

This date in Yankees history
Aug. 10, 1986: The Yankees unveiled a plaque in honor of Billy Martin at Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. Martin’s uniform No. 1 was also retired.