Fitter Torres focused on returning to form

February 27th, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. -- Any criticisms of ’ underwhelming 2020 have been filed away in the Yankees infielder’s mind, neatly arranged into compartments concerning his physical conditioning, lack of offensive power and issues ranging from his shortstop position.

2021 represents a new beginning, one he intends to embrace. Saying that “the past is the past,” Torres has heard plaudits from the Bombers’ coaching staff for his improved mobility and strength. The 24-year-old is coming into the exhibition slate intent upon rewriting his narrative from last year.

“I just want to feel my body really work again and get better and better,” Torres said. “I’ll be ready for the year and prepare myself really well. I’m working hard to be ready to win coming into the spring and the regular season.”

General manager Brian Cashman was among those offering criticism of Torres’ season, stating in December that Torres “wasn’t in the best shape” for the Summer Camp restart in July. Torres did not exactly dispute Cashman’s point, saying that he found it challenging to continue preparing for the season “because everything was closed” due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Torres said that he has not spoken to Cashman about the comments and does not believe any further conversation is necessary. Torres’ focus is upon reclaiming his 2019 form, when he batted .278/.337/.535 (127 OPS+) with 38 home runs and 90 RBIs in 144 games, lauded with his second All-Star selection.

That power was largely absent last year, and Torres admitted that he had difficulty finding a comfort zone at the plate. Torres batted .243/.356/.368 (102 OPS+) with three homers and 16 RBIs in 42 games, his abbreviated season trimmed even further by a strained left quadriceps and strained left hamstring.

“My ’19 was great; I didn’t get any injuries in the long season. In 60 games last year, I got injuries,” Torres said. “I didn’t feel comfortable when I went to home plate during the short spring or the regular season. I was trying to fix too many things. People didn’t know that, but I’m preparing myself to get a little stronger. Let’s see if I can hit the same or more homers from ’19.”

The Yankees believe that Torres hit his stride late in the schedule. He was more productive after returning from injury in early September, and Torres was among the club’s most potent performers in the postseason. In seven playoff games, Torres hit .435 (10-for-23) with two homers and five RBIs.

“I came back after the injury feeling really good,” Torres said. “I lost weight and played a little bit better.”

Torres said that he only rested for about a week or two after the playoffs. Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza has been working with Torres in the Tampa area since December, continuing to fine-tune the defensive adjustments that had been in progress when Spring Training halted in March.

Transitioning back to his natural position, Torres committed nine errors, tied with the Rays’ Willy Adames for the most by any American League shortstop. Boone said that Torres has more glove range than some credit him for, and Mendoza said he sees an improved player this spring.

“He came in really good shape; he worked really hard during the offseason,” Mendoza said. “You can see it with the way he’s moving right now in his pregame work on the back fields. Last year, toward the end, he developed a really good routine in his preparation. He carried over that attention to detail -- making the routine plays, the way he prepares, we’re very pleased with where he’s at.”

Torres said that he is eager to reclaim his place among the game’s brightest young talents. He watched with great interest when the Padres’ Fernando Tatis, Jr. agreed to a 14-year, $340 million extension; Torres said that there have been no such talks with the Yankees, but that is one conversation that he’d love to have.

“We know that Tatis is a great player,” Torres said. “I feel super happy for him. When I saw the news, who doesn’t want to get that money? I mean, is that not the wish for everybody? I’m just trying to continue to play like I play, try to get better. We’ll see in the future if I get an opportunity to get a big contract.”