NEW YORK -- Somewhere between the pin-drop silent visiting clubhouse of Houston’s Minute Maid Park and the boisterous first day that pitchers and catchers arrived at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the sting of playoff elimination transformed into hunger for Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres, who says that a four-month layoff has
NEW YORK -- Somewhere between the pin-drop silent visiting clubhouse of Houston’s Minute Maid Park and the boisterous first day that pitchers and catchers arrived at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the sting of playoff elimination transformed into hunger for Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres, who says that a four-month layoff has not altered that goal.
“Last year is in the past right now,” Torres said on Monday. “We forgot that. Our mentality and our focus is on the short season right now. We have a mission; the mission is winning everything. That is the job, that's the focus and mentality, and we’re preparing right now to get there.”
As Torres readies to take over as the Bombers’ everyday shortstop, the 23-year-old is continuing the efforts that started on the sun-splashed fields of Tampa, Fla. He had planned on serving as half of a stellar double-play combination up the middle with DJ LeMahieu, but those plans were altered when the three-time Gold Glove Award winner tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month.
With LeMahieu’s return date unknown, Torres is preparing for the possibility that he could instead be partnered with a different second baseman. Yankees manager Aaron Boone has suggested that Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada and non-roster invitee Matt Duffy are all in the mix to see time there.
“I’d be 100 percent comfortable,” Torres said. “I knew Wade in the Minor Leagues. We’ve got really good communication during the double plays and during the game. It’s like growing up together, and it’s the same feeling right now.”
Torres had committed five errors through 10 games when Grapefruit League action halted on March 12, raising some eyebrows in the wake of Didi Gregorius’ departure to the Phillies in free agency, but bench coach Carlos Mendoza said the team is not concerned about Torres’ return to his natural position.
“We saw it, but we didn't want to make too much out of it,” said Mendoza, who has drilled Torres in numerous early sessions since Summer Camp started July 3. “We were happy with the work he was putting in pregame and with the way he was going about it. The biggest thing was just staying aggressive and staying positive with him. What we’ve seen so far ... we’re happy and confident that he's going to be fine.”
Any focus on Torres’ glovework, of course, should note how potent his bat projects to be. Torres was among the American League’s most productive infielders last season, batting .278/.337/.535 (128 OPS+) with 38 home runs and 90 RBIs.
That production hasn’t yet appeared during Summer Camp, where most of the pitchers have had the upper hand on the Bombers’ hitters. Torres mentioned being particularly impressed by right-hander Clarke Schmidt, the Yanks’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, with whom Torres rehabbed from their respective Tommy John surgeries in 2017.
“Clarke is really impressive,” Torres said. “We always played a little joke, [saying], ‘When I face you, I’m going to try to hit a homer.’ And now I’ve faced him. I feel really good, I feel confident in all my pitchers.”
Torres indicated he is holding something back for when the team begins playing exhibition games this weekend.
“I feel good,” Torres said. “I'm just getting ready to see all the pitchers. I try to be ready each at-bat. I know it's a little bit different because I don't really like seeing my teammates; when they pitch, I don't feel really comfortable. This is a moment to just be focusing in your area and try to get ready for Opening Day.”
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.