HOUSTON -- The soft liner appeared destined to plop into shallow center field. Gleyber Torres broke instinctively from his second-base position, flagging the ball on the shortstop side of the bag before staining the front of his uniform with grass.
It was a key play in Wednesday's 4-0 Yankees victory over the Astros, robbing Alex Bregman of a hit that likely would have produced the first run of the evening against Luis Severino. It was also another example of how seamlessly Torres, the Yanks' top prospect, has adapted to life in the big leagues.
"That was a heck of a play," Severino said. "I have to tip my hat to him. If that would have dropped, nobody knows what would have happened. It was a very good play."
The fourth-youngest player to appear in a Major League game this season (the Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr., Mike Soroka and Ozzie Albies are all younger than the 21-year-old Torres), Torres continued to deliver on Thursday, becoming the youngest player since Derek Jeter in 1995 to drive in three runs for the Yankees in their 6-5 win over Houston.
"If I get an opportunity to try and help my team, I enjoy it," Torres said. "If I do my job, I enjoy it more."
Torres was asked if anything has been more difficult than anticipated during his brief time in the Majors.
"No, not really," Torres said. "I worked like five years, six years to be here. I got the opportunity. The most important thing for me is to enjoy right now, enjoy every day and help my team."
Torres struggled at the plate this spring with the Yankees, resulting in a 14-game stint with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, during which he batted .347 with 11 RBIs.
Manager Aaron Boone said he is convinced that the spring performance was simply rust related to Torres' nine-month layoff following Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, and that the Yanks are now seeing what Torres can really do.
"He hasn't missed a beat since coming up here," Boone said. "He's been an absolute factor in us winning games -- quality at-bats at the bottom of the order and extended our lineup. And some really special defensive plays that he's made, kind of becoming one of our anchors out there. Elite defense. He's made a lot of big-time plays."
Word on Bird
Greg Bird (right ankle surgery) is scheduled to take his first at-bats since the late March procedure on Monday, when he plays in an extended spring training game in Florida. Boone said that a mid-to-late May return to the big leagues looks realistic for Bird.
"You never want to get too excited until he gets through everything," Boone said. "Obviously, he's got games to play in now, but all things considered, I think it's going pretty well."
Boone said that Bird will likely log rehab at-bats with Class A Advanced Tampa or Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before rejoining the big league roster. They would like to see him play in 10 to 14 games to regain his timing.
"Those will be things that we weigh as we go and determine what is the right amount of at-bats, games in a row, things like that," Boone said.
Pack your bags
Left-hander Justus Sheffield, the Yankees' top-rated pitching prospect and the No. 46 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline, has been promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The 21-year-old Sheffield was 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts for Double-A Trenton. In 28 innings, he permitted 16 hits, 14 walks and struck out 39, holding opponents to a .163 batting average. Yankees vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring said that Sheffield needs to develop his fastball command, but he has impressed with his competitive spirit.
"He's the type of guy that you almost have to pull the reins back on him a little bit," Naehring told the YES Network. "When the game heats up, he's so competitive that sometimes it plays against him. ... We all felt that the Double-A experience was good for him. He competed and was doing well there, so it was good to see him move on."
Naehring said that there is no timetable for Sheffield's promotion to the Majors, but he has put himself in position to be considered. Asked about additional prospects that fans should be paying attention to, Naehring offered the names of three right-handers: Luis Medina, Nick Nelson and Jonathan Loaisiga, all of whom are listed in the Yankees' Top 30.
• Christopher Austin said that he was ready to play on Thursday, one day after landing hard on his right hip. Boone said that Austin likely would have been out of the lineup anyway against the right-handed Lance McCullers, with switch-hitter Neil Walker getting the nod at first base.
• Boone said that the Yankees have not discussed a promotion for infielder Brandon Drury, who is continuing to rehab with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but it is possible that Drury could rejoin the team in New York this weekend.