'More confident' Torres eyes bounceback '21

March 12th, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. -- ' megawatt smile has returned to the batting cage and the backfields at Yankees camp, a clear indication that the shortstop is feeling great as he prepares for Opening Day. Having recommitted to his physical conditioning this winter, his goal for the upcoming season is to be the team’s ironman.

“It’s really important to me to be in really good shape,” Torres said on Friday. “This year, we play 162 games. Personally, I just want to play all the games and be healthy all year. That is how I’ll help my team in any opportunity I have. So far, I feel really good.”

The 24-year-old Torres is 6-for-15 (.400) with a double and two homers this spring, having impressed the Yankees’ coaching staff upon his arrival. Coming off a year in which his offensive numbers dipped and questions were raised about his preparedness for the abbreviated 60-game slate, Torres was motivated to change the narrative.

General manager Brian Cashman has said that Torres used the first several weeks of the 2020 regular season to get in shape -- perhaps contributing to the left hamstring and left quadriceps injuries that sent Torres to the injured list in late August. Torres has acknowledged that he had difficulty finding places to work out during the pause between Spring Training and Summer Camp.

“Last year was a tough year for everybody,” Torres said. “We didn’t start for three or four months. It was very hard for players, especially for me. Now, we know we’re playing a full season, we had a regular offseason, a regular Spring Training. We’ve played really well, and mentally, I feel really well.”

Cashman said that Torres appears to be in good shape this spring, and the Yankees believe that the "real" Torres returned after that IL stint, when he looked more like the player who was an American League All-Star in each of his first two big league seasons. Torres posted an .842 OPS in 18 games from Sept. 5 through the end of the year, compared with a .636 OPS in 24 games before going on the injured list.

Torres was at his best in the postseason, batting .435 (10-for-23) with two homers and five RBIs in the Yanks’ seven games against the Indians and Rays.

“He looks good. He looks focused,” said second baseman DJ LeMahieu. “He’s been locking in on the early work defense. The swing looks good. He just seems very focused this year. That’s kind of what I expected from him. I definitely think Gleyber looks ready to go and ready to get after it again.”

Torres got a head start on his work with infield coach Carlos Mendoza before camp, attempting to firm up his defense after committing nine errors in 40 games at shortstop last year -- tied with Tampa Bay’s Willy Adames for the most among AL shortstops.

While Torres said that he understands that errors are part of the game, Mendoza is helping him focus on fundamentals to complete routine plays and be aware of game situations. So far, so good.

“I’m working really hard every day,” Torres said. “I’m so happy to figure out a few things on my defense. Every practice, every day, I’ve been working with Mendy to fix all the little things I was working on during the offseason. I feel good, I feel happy. I feel more confident right now. Now, I’ll just try to play my best.”