Gregorius becomes total package for Yanks
Struggles earlier in the season now a distant memory
ATLANTA -- The Yankees knew that they were signing up for an unfinished product when they acquired Didi Gregorius in a three-way trade this past offseason, choosing to bet on his high ceiling. They may not have expected that gamble to pay off so soon.
Gregorius set a career high with six RBIs as part of a four-hit performance on Friday, helping to lead the Yankees to a 15-4 victory over the Braves at Turner Field. The issues on both sides of the ball that marked Gregorius' first months in pinstripes have faded into a distant memory.
"I've never seen a player make that big a jump," Yankees catcher Brian McCann said. "He's turned into a great baseball player. Offensively, defensively, running the bases. He's been great."
Gregorius has eight RBIs over his last two games, having also homered in Wednesday's loss to the Astros. He has seen steady improvement after batting just .206 with shaky defense and baserunning in April, and credits his veteran teammates for helping with the transition.
"I'm here to ask questions, trying to get better," Gregorius said. "I talk to [Alex Rodriguez], I talk to [Carlos] Beltran, I talk to all those guys. They have way more time [in the league] than me. I pick their brains, ask them about certain situations, where I should look, that kind of stuff.
"That's one thing they've all been helping me with. Everybody's here helping each other out, so that's a good thing right there."
Gregorius, who clubbed a three-run homer in the first inning off Williams Perez and added a two-run single in the second inning off Ross Detwiler, has steadily improved at the plate for most of the season, batting .232 in May, .258 in June and .317 in July.
Like many Yankees, Gregorius' output dipped in August, but Friday's big game boosted his month-long average to a respectable .273 mark. Gregorius legged out an infield single in the fourth inning, flew out in the seventh and lined a run-scoring hit in the eighth.
"I think he's just letting his instincts play," McCann said. "He's flying all over the field defensively. He's making every play and it's been fun to watch."
And then there's this neat factoid: For all the talk about the tall order of replacing Derek Jeter, Gregorius is now the only Yankees shortstop in history to log at least four hits and six RBIs in a single game.
To Gregorius, the transition to New York seemed less complicated than many anticipated it might be.
"I just went there and just played the game," Gregorius said. "That's what I put in my mind. Every day, just go out there and try to play the game. That's how I looked at it."