Shift to second has benefited Torres' offense

September 25th, 2021

BOSTON -- One of the few remaining unpushed buttons at manager Aaron Boone's disposal concerned the shortstop position, where ' shaky defense had become a glaring issue in recent weeks. Having resisted a move earlier in the season, the manager opted to make the change earlier this month, reasoning that it might "take a little pressure off" the infielder.

Torres understood the move, though it would be a stretch to say he was thrilled about the conversation in which Boone told him that he would return to second base, with Gio Urshela taking over at shortstop and DJ LeMahieu shifting to third base. But it has worked -- Torres is swinging a hot bat since Boone shuffled the infield on Sept. 13.

"Like I always say, I'm here to play any position for my team," Torres said. "Just help in any situation. Now playing second, it's the same. I'm trying to be more confident. I think I played two years at second, and I've had a lot of practice. I'm just doing my job, focusing on defense, always focusing on hitting. Trying to do the little things to help my team."

In 11 games since Torres started at second base on Sept. 13, the 24-year-old has a .350/.435/.475 slash line with a homer, two doubles, four RBIs and six walks -- a significant improvement over the .252/.323/.352 slash line that Torres owned through his first 108 games.

In their conversation, Boone's advice to Torres included the nugget that a strong finish -- preferably one in the postseason -- could wipe clean any regular-season issues.

Boone is a perfect example; hardly anyone recalls Boone's subpar .254/.302/.418 slash line after joining the Yankees in 2003, but they sure remember the swing on a floating Tim Wakefield knuckleball that secured Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

"It's another opportunity to do great things for my team," Torres said.

Pop fly
LeMahieu was the Yankees' most valuable player in each of the past two seasons, and Boone offered an explanation Friday for the dropoff in the infielder's numbers.

"I think he's been one of the guys that's been hurt by the baseball," Boone said. "He's hit a number of balls, I'll look up on the board -- 97, 99 miles an hour, and it's to the warning track. I think part of that slug has been a 'just miss' a handful of times this year, coupled with the ball probably not going quite as far."

Boone added that he believes catcher Kyle Higashioka has been similarly affected.

LeMahieu posted a .536 slugging percentage (.922 OPS) over the 2019-20 seasons with the Yankees. His slugging percentage sat at .363 (.712 OPS) entering play on Friday; his average exit velocity and hard-hit rates have been lower in 2021 than they were in his first two Yankees seasons.

"I do feel like he's performed better than his OPS numbers might suggest, based on the quality of contact he's had," Boone said.

Bombers bits
Jameson Taillon tossed 51 pitches in a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday vs. Syracuse. The right-hander is traveling with the Yankees and Boone said there is "a good chance" Taillon will be re-inserted to the rotation during the Blue Jays series.

This date in Yankees history
Sept. 24, 2015: Alex Rodríguez became the eighth player in Major League history to score 2,000 career runs, touching the plate in the third inning of a 3-2 win over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium.