A year after posting the lowest on-base percentage, slugging percentage and wRC+ of his career, Gleber Torres was no longer in the Yankees’ opening day lineup.
While it was clear from the middle of last season that he would no longer be a shortstop, Torres also finds himself out of a second base job for some time. DJ LeMahieu received Opening Day clearance at second base, finishing fifth, while Torres was on the bench. It ends a streak of three straight opening days for Torres dating back to his breakout season in 2019.
Torres didn’t even have batting practice on the field starting with Friday’s game. After making 19 starts at second base down the stretch last year, it appears Torres will have to get used to a reserve role to start the year. Josh Donaldson’s arrival in the Bronx makes things somewhat interesting, as he will mostly start at third base, but could also be DH on days where Giancarlo Stanton is playing outfield, raising the prospect of Lemahieu in third and Torres at second. open.
For now, though, manager Aaron Boone is comfortable with the decision to drop two-time All-Star Torres for the starting nine.
“(It) was something I’ve been contemplating over the past few days,” Boone said in Friday’s pregame media session. “It was ultimately a tough call, someone had to sit down. I wouldn’t read much into it other than that.” Boone said he informed Torres of his decision on Thursday, adding that Torres is available as a pinch hitter late in the game and could play the next five or six consecutive games, depending on circumstances.
“Like having some conversations with the coaches, thinking about that, the conversations we had with our guys a couple of weeks ago prepared us for this,” Boone said of his lineup creation, which would be a thing throughout the season. Torres and Lemahieu are on the roster and are in good health.
Torres has found success in his career during his limited action as a pinch hitter. He was called up to hit the pinch 14 times and came up with three hits and six walks, which is good for a .375 batting average and .643 on-base percentage. His career Ops is also over 100 points better than that of a left-handed pitcher (.845 compared to .743 against right-wingers), making him an obvious pinch-hit candidate against Southeastern relievers.
“He was fine,” Boone said of Torres’ reaction to the news. “I’m sure he was disappointed.” The 25-year-old infielder is in control of the club until 2025. In March, he signed a one-year, $6.25 million contract with the Yankees to avoid an arbitration hearing.
Judge got a good locker
With the media allowed to return to the clubhouse this season, one detail became noticeable. Aaron Judge has taken over Brett Gardner’s old locker, set in the back corner of the room at Prime Real Estate.
The space is usually reserved for team leaders and veterans. The judge joked that it’s a bit more spacious than his old space, and he hopes to carry on the corner locker legacy as best as he can.
“It’s an incredible honor,” the judge said hours before Brian Cashman’s announcement that he and the Yankees could not agree on a contract extension, “He asked if I wanted to be down here and I said, ‘If you think I deserve to be down here, that means a lot.’ I hope I keep this locker well.”
Of course, Gardner had to go to get that locker. Although he has not officially retired, and has said at the end of last season that he still has a desire to play, Gardner unsigned. That means the judges are starting the first season of their seven-year career without Gardner on the team. When asked about Gardner’s absence, the judge expressed equal respect for the former champion that Boone did it on Thursday,
“That man was the life of the party,” the judge said of Gardner, who is not on the Yankees opening day roster for the first time since 2008. “He was a leader, prankster, lets loose it here. We’re going to miss him. He wanted to be out every day. It didn’t matter if he was coming off the bench, he was giving 110% Today it’s a little different, but whatever he and his family want to do, I’m happy with that decision.
Right now, the Yankees don’t have a true backup outfielder. Marvin Gonzalez has played more than 1,600 innings in the outfield during his career, but certainly not someone the Yankees have ever wanted at center, where Gardner started 92 times last season. On days when regular center fielder Aaron Hicks is not playing, the judge is the most likely center fielder, leading Giancarlo Stanton to take the field. With Tim Locastro and Ander Insert both in Triple-A, the team lacks a traditional pace and defense outfielder to engage in late-game situations.