LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tyler Wade said that he feels "like a different player" than the reserve who spent most of his big league time anchored to the bench last season, while manager Aaron Boone raves that he has proven to be "a better player than I thought" over the course
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tyler Wade said that he feels "like a different player" than the reserve who spent most of his big league time anchored to the bench last season, while manager Aaron Boone raves that he has proven to be "a better player than I thought" over the course of camp.
Should Wade open the season as the second baseman, as appears likely, the Yankees will owe a debt of gratitude to Jose Pujols. The Angels slugger worked out with Wade this past offseason in California, suggesting tweaks to the 23-year-old's batting stance that have helped his spring bid for a job.
"He's been around the game for 20-plus years, so seeing his expressions and how excited he gets talking about hitting with younger guys and the younger generation, it was pretty special," Wade said. "He probably doesn't even know who I am, so to go out of his way and invite me to hit with him privately, it meant a lot to me."
Wade's trainer, J.T. Wright, suggested that the two meet for a session at Proactive Sports Performance in Santa Ana, Calif., where both players work out. Wade's workouts were scheduled for 10 a.m. PT, but he arrived two hours early in order to spend time with the three-time Most Valuable Player Award winner and 10-time All-Star, whose 614 homers are the seventh most all time.
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"He was like, 'Hey man, you should come hit with me,'" Wade said. "I said, 'For sure.' We exchanged numbers and chose a location. I hit with him probably twice a week for about two weeks."
After watching Wade take a few hacks, Pujols asked, "Do you have trouble with the inside pitch?" When Wade responded in the affirmative, Pujols suggested that Wade move his right foot to open up his stance, while raising his hands slightly to be more direct toward the ball.
"It felt weird, but he was like, 'Dude, this is going to help you a lot,'" Wade said. "I think it's going to play. I feel like I'm finding the barrel a lot more often. I'm swinging at good pitches, and I'm controlling the strike zone now. I feel like a different player."
Though Neil Walker has played the majority of his career at second base, posting an .801 OPS last year for the Mets and Brewers, his late arrival appears to have Boone leaning toward starting Wade to begin the season. Boone said on Saturday that he loves Wade's athleticism and versatility.
"There's something impactful he seems to do every day," Boone said. "It's kind of a different dynamic that we have because he's so athletic. The speed, the range that he has in the field. He's done a handful of things this spring. It seems like every day he's in, there's something he's done that's been special that impacts the game."
Masahiro Tanaka said that he is focusing on how he feels with each Grapefruit League start -- his splitter is moving well, he said -- and not the results. That is why the right-hander remains unconcerned with his spring ERA, which rose from 10.13 to 11.25 after Saturday's outing against the Tigers.
Tanaka, who will start the Yankees' second game of the regular season on March 30 in Toronto, served up homers to Jose Cabrera and Leonys Martin as Detroit peppered him for four runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings. Tanaka walked one and struck out six, and he said he will be ready for the regular season to begin.
"Obviously the results aren't there, but you're actually going into the game with a certain theme and you're trying to execute that," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I've stuck with that, and I feel like I've gotten some good feedback from what I was trying to do. … It's more of a feel thing for me.
"You go out there, and you try to do what you want to do before going into the game. You go into the game with a theme, and you try to execute that. The most important thing is actually going into the season being able to execute and get some results. Hopefully we'll make that happen."
Jacoby Ellsbury (right oblique) was scheduled to hit on the field Saturday in Tampa, Fla., and he could have simulated at-bats on Monday, aiming to play in Tuesday's game against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. Ellsbury has not played since March 1.
Clint Frazier (concussion) was seen by a doctor on Saturday and reports "more improvement," according to Boone. He is throwing and exercising, but he has not resumed hitting.
Opening Day starter Luis Severino will make his second spring start on Sunday when the Yankees host the Marlins at 1:05 p.m. ET. Aaron Judge is expected to be in the Yankees' lineup. Former Yankee Caleb Smith is scheduled to start for Miami. Watch the game on MLB.TV.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.