Mike Tauchman has been pleased with the nature of his at-bats so far this season, and the Yankees’ coaching staff is taking note, with manager Aaron Boone saying that he is searching for opportunities to write the outfielder’s name in the lineup.
Tauchman stroked another two hits, including a two-run single, in Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Phillies. The 29-year-old was 7-for-19 (.368) entering play on Friday, continuing a run of above-average big league production that dates to last July.
“I feel competitive in my at-bats,” Tauchman said. “I think we're all chasing perfection a little bit, knowing that it's never going to come. I've been happy with the competitiveness of my at-bats and my two-strike approach. It's led to some results early, and I just want to keep working to get where I want to be.”
Acquired from the Rockies in March 2019, Tauchman was sent down to the Minors twice last season, but his third promotion proved to be the charm. In 56 games since July 4, Tauchman has batted .329 with 12 doubles, nine homers and 36 RBIs, compiling a .973 OPS.
“I think he's just finally gotten an opportunity at the big league level,” Boone said. “He’s done a great job of coming in here and learning how to prepare for a pitcher and game plan. That’s allowed his talent to finally show itself at the big league level. This is a guy that's had a lot of success through the Minor Leagues, and it clicks at different times for people.”
Tauchman’s progress could spell a tough decision for Boone in left field, as Brett Gardner has been swinging the bat better after a slow start. A devoted student of the game under normal circumstances, Tauchman said that preparation has taken on even more importance during this shortened season.
“I think it’s about finding ways to slow things down and simplify,” Tauchman said. “There's a lot of distractions; there's a lot of new rules and little different things. Something is going to sneak up on you and surprise you, but if you prepare as best you can, you can kind of limit that.”
This weekend’s visit to Tropicana Field marked the first air travel of the season for the Yankees, who utilized trains and buses for their first trips to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Baltimore. Boone said that each passenger was provided with pre-packaged food and players could not freely mingle while on board, permitted to get out of their seats only to use the lavatory.
“It was a different [larger] plane for us, so we could have more rows and guys could have their own row,” Boone said. “Those things were different, but it was a familiar flight crew and I think it all went pretty well.”
With Major League Baseball releasing stricter protocols this week, players are required to remain in the team hotel when they are not at Tropicana Field. Tauchman said that he believes those protocols will help players remain healthy.
“I’m a pretty boring guy as it is; I spend about 90 percent of the road trip in my room anyway,” Tauchman said. “Doing things like cleaning the surfaces in your room and just making sure stuff is wiped down, that remains a priority.”
Gerrit Cole said that he would have enjoyed the Old-Timers’ Day festivities, which were originally scheduled to be held this weekend in The Bronx. He was in the visitors’ dugout last year as a member of the Astros.
“It would have been special to be wearing the pinstripes and watch it from the home side, being able to get to meet some new faces, some Yankees heroes and some great Yankees. Fortunately, I’m here for a while, so I'll catch one sooner rather than later.”
Cole said that he was able to spend time with David Cone, Reggie Jackson and Bernie Williams this spring, and is looking forward to a chance to meet Paul O’Neill. He also mentioned chatting with Chris Chambliss during last year’s festivities; Chambliss and Cole both attended UCLA.
During a typical season, Boone would pore over daily box scores and reports from each of the Yankees’ Minor League affiliates. There are no official games being played, but he is tracking players’ progress with similar content from the club’s alternate training site in Moosic, Pa.
“We're getting information from the coaches down there,” Boone said. “The ballpark in Scranton is outfitted with all our technology and video, so we're able to see every outing and every live at-bat, reports on what guys are doing. It’s all in there, just like it would be during a Minor League season.”
Infielder/outfielder Miguel Andújar, right-hander Albert Abreu, infielder/outfielder Thairo Estrada, right-hander Ben Heller and catcher Erik Kratz accompanied the Yankees to Florida, serving as the club’s taxi squad. They are permitted to work out with the team but must be out of uniform when games begin.
The Yankees will continue their series with the Rays on Saturday, playing a doubleheader that will begin at 2:10 p.m. ET. Cole is scheduled to start the first game, with the second game’s starter listed as TBD. Tampa Bay’s pitching is listed as TBD for the two games, both of which will be seven innings.