(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ESPN SPORTS)
MOOSIC, Pa. — Gleyber Torres is 6-foot-1, but during spring training his play towered over a New York Yankees camp that included the 6-7 Aaron Judge. Torres hit .448 in 29 at-bats, leaving GM Brian Cashman to swat down questions about Torres moving all the way from A-ball to the big leagues to replace an injured Didi Gregorius.
These days, Judge is the biggest story in baseball, hitting home runs at rookie-record pace, leading the All-Star voting, emerging as the candidate to beat for American League MVP and making Torres sound just like any other 20-year-old Yankees fan.
“He is destroying the baseball,” Torres said in the clubhouse at PNC Field, home of the Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
The Yankees are in the process of creating a new homegrown core, reminiscent of the Core Four dynasty group comprising Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. And, often omitted but not forgotten, Bernie Williams.
The new core looks as if it already has two members in Judge and Gary Sanchez. Dellin Betances, who arrived just four seasons ago, could be another cog. Greg Bird showed in 2015 that he could be the Yankees’ long-term first baseman — if he can stay healthy. Soon, Torres, ranked the fourth-best prospect in baseball by ESPN’s Keith Law, will get a chance.
While his Triple-A manager, Al Pedrique, said Tuesday that Torres isn’t ready yet — the natural shortstop is still learning to play third and second — the Yankees seem to be grooming Torres to replace the struggling Chase Headley at third. After 21 games at Triple-A, he was hitting .280, but that was after a very slow start.
There are officials in the organization who like the idea of adding more talented, youthful energy for the stretch run to an already dynamic roster. Torres could be an everyday addition to the lineup before the trade deadline.
“We are trying to give Torres more playing time at third so he can feel comfortable — the quicker, the better,” Pedrique said.
It takes time, which is why Pedrique’s comments Tuesday made sense. Torres might be asked to play in October, and the Yankees need him to be prepared and confident. The reaction time at third base is much faster than the middle infield positions, and while Torres doesn’t have to be perfect, he needs to understand the nuances that only come with experience.
“It is a new position for him,” Pedrique said. “He is just trying to react, adjust. He understands it is a reaction position. A lot of balls will get to you quicker. Your preparation needs to be done early.
“I think he is taking longer at third than second. You can tell he is starting to figure some things out at third base. With the work ethic he has and the softness of his hands, he is going to be fine. He has enough arm strength at third. It is a matter of time for him to feel comfortable at third.”
What has stood out about Torres since the Yankees traded for him nearly a year ago in the Aroldis Chapman deal is his maturity. Speaking a second language, Torres, a native of Venezuela, handles questions like a 10-year veteran — respectfully, with a little insight. It was easy to believe him when he said his focus is here at PNC Field, not daydreaming about the Bronx.
“When I get time, I watch a couple of innings when the Yankees play,” Torres said. “I stay focused here to get better every day.”
With each day, Gleybermania’s arrival in the Bronx seems to get closer. For the Yankees, there might be a third rookie act after Sanchez at the end of last year and Judge in the first half of this season. It could be Torres’ turn.
“He’s got a lot of tools,” Pedrique said. “He can be a special player.”