Notes: Torres 'more aggressive'; García sharp

March 28th, 2022

LAKELAND, Fla. -- plans to be a more aggressive hitter this season, which is why he did not hesitate to pounce on Eduardo Rodriguez’s first pitch Monday afternoon, belting a leadoff homer in the Yankees’ 11-7 Grapefruit League victory over the Tigers.

“Leading off, it’s like 95 percent [chance] you’ll get a fastball, and I know Rodriguez really well,” Torres said. “I’m just trying to get that opportunity to hit and do damage early. During the season, that’s the plan, to be aggressive every time. If I know the pitcher, for sure, I’ll be more aggressive.”

Torres’ blast to the visiting bullpen in right-center field came off the bat at 105 mph, calculated at a distance of 415 feet. It was the second home run of the spring for Torres, who is batting .421 (8-for-19) with four RBIs through seven exhibition games.

“I think he’s using his lower half a lot better,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I feel like his legs, his hip turn -- when he’s at his best, it’s something that’s been a real strength for him. I feel like I’m seeing that in his batting practice and in the games. Foundationally, he’s in a better place than he’s been.”

Torres credits the work he has been doing with hitting coaches Dillon Lawson, Casey Dykes and Hensley Meulens. In October, Torres said that he met with Lawson at the club’s complex in Tampa, Fla., a two-hour chat during which they peeled back the analytical layers of the 2021 season and set goals for ’22.

“We’re on top of the little things,” Torres said. “I told him my routines, my swing, that I wanted to get the ball in the air. Too many numbers -- fly balls, ground balls, I just want to change those things. We saw videos from two years ago, and I’m trying to be on the same page.”

Brush with greatness
Deivi García broadly grinned when asked about his most recent showdown against the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, inducing the future Hall of Famer and fellow Venezuelan to fly out in the second inning on Monday.

García faced off against Cabrera in a regular-season game last May 29, when García struck out Cabrera, then induced a flyout. Seeing Cabrera again was a thrill for García, who turns 23 in May; Garcia was four years old when Cabrera helped the Marlins defeat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series.

“He’s a special hitter,” García said through an interpreter. “It’s a special moment when you face a hitter like that, with so much experience. You’re just trying to compete. Those at-bats can teach you a lot and give you a lot of experience.”

García spun three sharp innings on Monday, yielding a solo home run to Dustin Garneau and one other hit in a 37-pitch effort. He walked none and struck out one, showcasing a fastball that averaged 95.5 mph and touched 96.8 mph. García’s fastball averaged 92.2 mph in the Majors last season.

“I do remember a couple of outings where I touched 96 last year, but I’m definitely more consistent right now,” García said. “I’ve been trying to feel more within myself on the mound, just concentrating on execution and using my fastball as a weapon, establishing it. It’s been pretty good.”

Project Shelby
The Yankees believe that their pitching coaches and analysts can unlock the talent that has flashed over the better years of his career. The 31-year-old right-hander is eager for the opportunity, hoping to pitch his way into the big league bullpen this season.

“I think it’s just about being efficient, being effective,” Miller said. “Everything data-wise and analytically these days is pretty good. I would say it’s probably the best it’s been in my career. It’s just about going out and getting hitters out, getting ahead in counts. I haven’t really been doing that a lot in the last couple of years; I’ve been walking guys and hurt myself in those situations.”

Miller was a 2015 National League All-Star with the Braves. Since then, he is 6-22 with a 7.04 ERA in 61 games (36 starts) at the big league level, issuing 102 walks against 245 hits over 195 2/3 innings, with 147 strikeouts.

“We just want to get him in a good place, throwing the ball well,” said Boone, who watched Miller throw in the bullpen on Monday. “We know we’ve got a guy that’s capable and talented.”

Miller expects to be pitching in Grapefruit League games later this week. Despite a 9.24 ERA in 12 2/3 big league innings last year, Miller’s numbers were sharp in Triple-A, where he plans to begin 2022 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He posted a 2.96 ERA over 24 1/3 innings for the Cubs’ and Pirates’ affiliates, striking out 37 against nine walks.

“Some of the stuff I have right now is better than it’s been, even earlier in my career,” Miller said. “I know I had a good fastball back then, but I never really had an offspeed pitch that got guys out. I’ve developed a slider, and it’s been pretty good. I think there’s still plenty left in the tank.”

Four on the floor
The Yankees practiced using a four-man outfield for the first time this spring Monday, sending Torres out to play right field during Robbie Grossman’s first-inning at-bat. Torres said that he and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa have been taking fly balls for similar shifts during the regular season.

“I’m always ready for everything,” Torres said.

Ultimately, the shift wasn’t needed, as Grossman flew out to left fielder Miguel Andújar.