Mateo, Judge give Yanks glimpse of future

Girardi, Beltran see bright days ahead for exciting pair

March 5th, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jorge Mateo didn't need to be told twice. The touted prospect heard from his teammates after jogging to first base on a near-home run in the Yankees' spring opener. So after feeling that same sweet crack of contact on Saturday afternoon, he took off.

The Yankees applauded as Mateo's laser dented the left-field scoreboard in the third inning of a 6-4 Grapefruit League win over the Red Sox. The 20-year-old speedster rounded the bases sans helmet, having lost it somewhere just past first base.

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"I learned to keep on running," Mateo said through an interpreter. "Run fast. Run hard. ... My teammates told me, 'Run hard all the time.'"

Mateo, who led the Minors with 82 stolen bases last season, promises that he will keep that same level of energy through the end of camp. He has made an impression on veteran Carlos Beltran, who said that Mateo already stands out for his humble attitude.

"Great talent. He has a great approach," Beltran said. "He looks comfortable. It's kind of like [Luis] Severino, but a position player. We see him and he looks like he has been there before, and that's great confidence. When you have confidence like that, that translates into success."

With Mateo and promising outfielder Aaron Judge -- who also homered on Saturday -- rated as the Yankees' Top 2 prospects by MLB Pipeline, the organization has reason to be excited about what is coming.

"I think you see the young players that are playing for us, how close they're getting and the talent level. It's there," manager Joe Girardi said. "There's a lot of talent in the Minor Leagues, and that's exciting for everyone in this organization."

There could still be growing pains on deck for the Baby Bombers. Judge struggled against Triple-A pitching late in last season, having been fed a steady diet of breaking balls, while Mateo committed 30 errors at shortstop in 99 games.

Outside the white lines, Mateo's mature demeanor hides the fact that he deals with the same feelings of homesickness that should be familiar to any college-aged student; something else he can lean on his teammates for advice about.

"Today we were talking about family," Beltran said. "He has family in the Dominican Republic. I was just telling him, 'I understand how difficult that can be, but just make sure you don't lose focus on what's going to take care of the family, and that's your career."

No matter what else happens on the field this spring, the chance to have conversations like that may be the most important experiences that Mateo takes away.

"It's been great, because I've had the opportunity to learn from my teammates," Mateo said.