Gil, Volpe power Yanks to first 5-0 start since 1992

'We know what we're capable of,' says young shortstop after first career 4-hit game

April 2nd, 2024

PHOENIX -- Twenty-four hours or nearly two years, nothing makes the heart grow fonder quite like time away from the game. For Yankees shortstop , the baseball-less void lasted just one day, although it was miserable and stomach-turning. Starting pitcher 's absence was much longer -- 690 days, to be exact.

Both came back with a vengeance Monday in a 5-2 win over the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. One day after being sidelined with a "really bad" stomach bug, Volpe set a career best with four hits, doubling twice and driving in a run. Meanwhile, making his first start in nearly two years due to Tommy John surgery, Gil held Arizona to one run over 4 2/3 innings, flashing a triple-digit fastball and striking out six.

“It just gets on guys,” Yankees catcher said of Gil’s fastball, which averaged 97.7 mph. “He’s not afraid to throw it in any count to any part of the zone to anybody. As a batter, when you’re facing a guy like that, it adds a little extra pressure to be on it. His fastball is one of the best in the game, the best on the team.”

Wells caught Gil for the first time Monday, but the Yankees' backstop came up with Volpe and could see a star turn coming from the shortstop and former top prospect. After posting a .666 OPS in his rookie season, Volpe entered the offseason set on fixing his swing. He felt he was hanging back on his back foot too much. He sought to land more balanced, and Wells thinks things clicked for Volpe right before Spring Training started.

Now in a better position to hit and able to cover the whole plate, nothing is getting by the young shortstop. In his first three games, Volpe went 4-for-10 with a homer and more walks (four) than strikeouts (three). Playing Monday at less than 100 percent -- “one more good night” of sleep and he might be able to recharge fully, he said -- Volpe roped two doubles among his four hits, reaching base each time he stepped to the plate.

“I just think he’s a way better hitter,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “Results can be fleeting, especially this time of the year, but the fact that he is getting results and the quality of each at-bat, it’s been impressive.”

Just as impressive was Gil, and the Yankees had been waiting much longer to see him dominate like he did against Arizona.

The 25-year-old last started on May 12, 2022, his only big league start that year. Elbow surgery kept him out until September of last season, although he appeared only in the Minor Leagues. He might have remained there to start this year, too, if not for 's elbow injury late in Spring Training. But with Cole down and an impressive Grapefruit League campaign from Gil, the righty earned the fifth starter job.

He might have earned the win, too, if not for his recent injury history. Though Gil held his fastball velocity late into his start, Boone pulled the righty at 84 pitches, one out shy of five innings. Boone said Gil’s long-term health takes priority over a one-night accomplishment no matter how long-awaited it was, though the manager did have a message for the young starter in the dugout: “I’m sorry.”

Gil said an apology was not required.

“I want to be pitching. Let’s be clear about that: I want to be pitching out there,” Gil said through a team interpreter. “But at the same time, I understand there’s a set amount of pitches that I’m under. I definitely didn’t feel bad about coming out of the game at that time.”

With the win, the Yankees have started 5-0 for just the fourth time in franchise history, and the first time since 1992. New York also opened with five straight wins in 1988 and 1933.

Given that the Yanks missed the playoffs in each of those three seasons, such a fast start is hardly predictive. No parade routes are being mapped yet, but the vibes in the Yankees clubhouse are undeniably good.

“We know what we’re capable of,” said Volpe. “It’s definitely nice when you feel like you’re putting in all the work. We’re facing really good teams, so we see how we stack up and we know we can compete against anybody.”