TAMPA, FL – I’m back! As many of you know, I recently had the opportunity to cover the New York Yankees at spring training and check in on the Baby Bombers. After one day at the big-league camp and a second at the minor league complex, I came away with several stories for my job at the Times Leader newspaper in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Talking to over a half a dozen players, Joe Girardi and Yankees VP of player development Gary Denbo, I collected some insight that baseball fans might appreciate.
Here we go!
Gleyber Torres is the real deal. I know a lot of Yankees fans want Gleyber Torres as the opening day shortstop but listen… he isn’t ready.
Torres is 20 and has never played higher than A-ball. Let’s give the kid a chance to prove it as at the Double-A level for a couple of months before we thrust him into the bright lights of New York. He is, however, the real deal. And after being around him, he comes across extremely humble and has his head on his shoulders.
“I don’t think about it as something that people say,” Torres said of the high expectations. “I just play my game and go to work every day and I’m grateful for future opportunities…The trick is to work hard every year, work hard every day and experience, maturity — the older guys have helped. These players are amazing and I see everything helping. For me, (I’m) taking away some pointers and putting them in my game.”
His work ethic has also taken some of the Yankees vets aback, too.
“I think he’s very comfortable, very confident in what he’s doing,” Yankees third baseman Chase Headley said. “Has a good — kind of — clock in his head. Understands how much time he has, doesn’t rush plays, doesn’t make bad plays because he feels he’s out of time. I haven’t seen a ton of at-bats, but the at-bats I’ve seen have been impressive — hitting the ball hard the other way, which is not a super-common thing for a young player. Been very impressed with him.”
Billy McKinney is a player to watch. Remember the name Billy McKinney.
He’s going to start the season in Trenton, but don’t be surprised if you see him up in the Bronx by September.
The young outfielder got a shot this spring to play with the big-league club and made the most of it. McKinney batted .417 with three homers and 7 RBI at the major league camp, and even caught the eye of Joe Girardi.
“He’s swinging the bat great. Even his outs are hard,” Girardi said. “He’s taken advantage of his situation where he got to come to camp because of a couple injuries. He’s been swinging it extremely well. I’m excited to follow him this year.”
Baby Bombers showing resemblances of Core Four. I had a nice conversation with Yankees VP of player development Gary Denbo while I was at the minor league complex.
He said that the farm system is deeper than those Core Four years and that things are falling into order similarly to those mid-90s teams.
“Our amateur scouts and international scouts did a tremendous job of identifying the same type of players that we had in the early ’90s — guys that were great athletes, middle of the field guys, high baseball intelligence guys — and then the middle of the last season at our trade deadline, our pro scouts came into the picture and they identified some really quality players from the other clubs, so they added that to what we already had,” Denbo said. “I actually think that we have a larger group of talent than what we had in the ’90s. Now, all those guys have to be able to play at a high level and compete at a high level to be able to get to the type of championship years that we had back then, so that remains to be seen. But I have high confidence that some of these guys are going to turn out to be above-average major league players and give us an opportunity to compete for championships.”
The question is, will guys like Torres, MicKinney, Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge be able to put it together like Derek Jeter, Mo Rivera and Andy Pettitte did?
Only time will tell.
The World Baseball Classic is great for baseball. I understand Yankees fans are probably upset with the World Baseball Classic right now after watching Didi Gregorious come back with s major shoulder injury.
However, thanks to the WBC, the Yankees might have just picked up a major bullpen arm in Ernesto Frieri. You might remember Frieri from his days with the Los Angeles Angels when he saved 37 games in 2013. Well, he was out of baseball in 2016 and thanks to a strong performance for Columbia during the WBC, the Yankees have the reliever a call and now it looks like he’ll make the opening day roster.
“I went back to zero. I went back to Columbia and started working with the people who actually taught me how to play baseball when I was a kid,” Frieri said. “I started doing the little stuff, like throwing the ball, how to throw the ball, how to stay back and it worked out well for me. Right now I feel great… For me, I just tried to go back and re-learn (my delivery). I got my delivery back, I got my deception back and proved myself in the WBC. Good hitters, they can hit fastballs if it doesn’t look that good. Even (players) talked to me after and said, ‘Dude, man, you’re back. I can’t pick the ball out of your hand.’”
P.s… So about a month ago I stumble upon the Twitter handle @TitanicHoops. The handle posts video’s of game-winning shots to the tune of “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. I swear, it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Definitely worth a follow.
Here’s the video of UNC’s Luke Maye’s dagger against Kentucky.
WHAT A REGIONAL FINAL BETWEEN UNC AND KENTUCKY!
LUKE MAYE WINS IT AND SENDS UNC TO THE FINAL FOUR!
IT'S MUCH BETTER W/TITANIC MUSIC!
— ?Titanic Hoops? (@TitanicHoops) March 26, 2017
Also, for what it’s worth. I like North Carolina over Gonzaga.