Didi gregarious? Yanks see SS as key leader
Boone: It's important for Gregorius to take young infielders 'under his wing'
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Papiamento, in case you were wondering.
Before the Yankees' 5-3 win over the Red Sox on Saturday in the teams' first meeting of the spring, shortstops Didi Gregorius and Xander Bogaerts spent some time on the field catching up, talking baseball, family and other things. And they did so in Papiamento, the native language of Gregorius, who grew up in Curacao, and Bogaerts, who grew up in Aruba. It is one of four languages they each speak, along with English, Dutch and Spanish.
The Yankees would like Gregorius, who turned 28 in February, to use his linguistic versatility and burgeoning leadership skills to mentor some of the younger players on the roster, including second baseman Gleyber Torres and third baseman Brandon Drury, who also made the trip to face the Red Sox.
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"I'm seeing an established player, and we're trying to challenge him to take on even more of a leadership role now, especially with our infield," said new manager Aaron Boone. "He's kind of the senior spokesman there. He's the leader. It's important for me that he really takes guys under his wing and kind of becomes the voice out there in our infield."
It's a role Gregorius is willing to take on.
"I always talk to them," Gregorius said. "I see young guys, everybody is willing to learn. So I think that's one of those things that I want to pass on what was passed on to me. So you got to prepare the guys for what's going on in the big leagues, so whenever they get there they don't have to get comfortable then -- they should be already comfortable when they get there."
Just as Gregorius was comfortable last season, when he hit .287 and set career highs with 25 home runs, 73 runs scored and 87 RBIs in 136 games. He set a Yankees record, surpassing Derek Jeter (24, 1999) for home runs in a season for a shortstop. Among all shortstops, Gregorius was second in home runs, third in RBIs and fifth with a .478 slugging percentage.
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"I don't really care about rankings and all that," Gregorius said. "All I want to do is be good for my team, that's all. That's the best way to play the game instead of worrying about everything. Everyone's going to judge you at some point no matter what you do in life. On the field, off the field, there's always somebody judging you. So if you just go out there and play the game, you got nothing to worry about."
"I think we're seeing a guy that's established himself as a really good player in this league," Boone said. "I've been happy with his work so far. [He had] a couple of really good at-bats [Friday], today is his first back-to-back game. So that's another step on his way of getting ready for the season. But just one of those guys you're excited to have on your side, with what he brings to the table on both sides of the ball now."