Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
As the week dragged on and the carnage mounted, it was easy to look around the field during a Yankees game and lament all the key players who were missing:
Giancarlo Stanton. Aaron Hicks. Miguel Andujar. Luis Severino. Dellin Betances. Not to mention the OG injured Yankee of 2019, Didi Gregorius.
Those stars are missed terribly, and the loss of Troy Tulowitzki so early in his comeback doesn't help, either. But it's also easy to forget that several highly talented players remain on the field and must now step up to save the Yankees season. Last year's rookie sensation Gleyber Torres is not least among them.
Perhaps because of the long slump that followed his dynamic debut last season, Torres found himself overshadowed somewhat by Andujar, who finished second in rookie of the year voting.
But Torres is the more complete player -- a solid defensive shortstop (despite not looking the part) and a supremely gifted contact hitter.
"Gleyber is always going to hit," one scout who covers the Yankees said. "He makes contact and he's just a baseball player. I like Gleyber a lot."
Torres reminded everyone of his talent on Thursday, when he knocked four hits and two home runs, including a pivotal three-run shot, in a game that mattered more to the Yankees than they ever could have imagined when the season began.
The team knew how dire its situation had become, despite the early date. On Wednesday morning, the final day of their disastrous opening homestand, a few players muttered thoughts to the effect that the mounting injuries had nearly become too much.
Then, after a meek loss to the terrible Tigers, manager Aaron Boone was as nearly snippy as the New York media had ever seen him. Asked at one point where Tulowitzki's calf injury left his infield, Boone stiffened, shifted in his chair and said, "Well, I mean, you know our team right now."
This wasn't exactly a Hal McRae tirade -- Boone isn't wired that way -- but it showed how seriously he was taking the mounting losses. A few minutes later, he slipped into the clubhouse and engaged veteran leader Brett Gardner in an extended private conversation. The manager's instincts were clearly telling him the team had arrived at a significant moment.
His feelings still appeared elevated in the dugout on Thursday. When Aaron Judge didn't get the call on a low pitch, Boone shouted, "That's f---ing low ass s---" at home plate umpire Ed Hickox. Think the Yankees wanted this game?
Enter Torres, who had already been asked to step back to his natural shortstop position. Physically fit but naturally stout, he isn't built like a prototypical shortstop, and scouts had long predicted that he would end up either at second base or even at a corner position.
Last year, Torres made occasional mental mistakes at second, leading the Yankees to develop an internal belief that he was better at short -- at least for now -- because he was so much more comfortable and experienced there.
That's why the Yanks declined to sign a free agent like Freddy Galvis or Adeiny Hechevarria -- they trusted Torres to slide over to short in the event of a Tulowitzki injury.
That happened on Wednesday, a day after Torres started at short anyway to give Tulowitzki a day off. Now he'll be at short, with the underrated D.J. LeMahieu at third and Tyler Wade at second.
Wade is the weak link there, and this is not a starting infield that Boone or Brian Cashman hoped to field at any point during the season. But it is still anchored by Torres, a burgeoning star in the league who now must help lead the Yankees out of the mess that they quickly stumbled into.
Thursday's dynamic performance against the Orioles was a perfect start.