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What the Yankees think is wrong with slumping Gleyber Torres

Written by on May 12, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The powerful solar storm that lit up the sky in bursts of purple, pink and green across the globe overnight and into Saturday morning wreaked a little havoc at Tropicana Field. Before the New York Yankees were set to face the Tampa Bay Rays, various Wi-Fi networks were disrupted across the city, including the one serving the Yankees’ clubhouse. Though they were able to get it back online before first pitch, one of their most important bats remained offline.

Struggling second baseman Gleyber Torres was out of the starting lineup for a 7-2 loss, which dropped the Yankees to 26-15 and kept them in second place in the American League East. The fourth-place Rays climbed back to 20-20.

Torres didn’t get the whole day off. He pinch hit to start the seventh inning but popped out to right field after falling behind in the count 0-2. He also struck out looking in the ninth inning. His batting average dropped to a terrible .207.

Boone’s reason for sitting Torres was telling.

“Just felt like he could use a day here,” the manager said.

Translation: Torres was going through it.

“Those numbers,” he said, “I don’t feel so good or happy with those numbers.”

Torres likely looked at this season as his chance at generational wealth. The 27-year-old from Venezuela will have made $35.5 million in his career via major-league salaries by the end of the season, according to Baseball Reference. But as a relatively young player reaching free agency for the first time next winter, Torres could have put himself in position for an extremely lucrative multiyear deal.

And he still has a chance. But he hasn’t done any favors for himself or the Yankees, who may need to re-evaluate his playing time if he doesn’t pick it up.

For example, with DJ LeMahieu possibly returning from the injured list in a couple of weeks, the Yankees could look to give Jon Berti and Oswaldo Cabrera at-bats at second base if necessary. Oswald Peraza, a once highly-touted infield prospect, is still just 23 years old and could also return soon from the injured list, making him a potential option.

Torres has only one homer, seven RBIs and a .543 OPS in 41 games. His 67 wRC+ entering Saturday was the 18th-worst in the majors among qualified position players. Cabrera’s 101 wRC+ was the Yankees’ second-worst, by comparison.

Of course, the Yankees have time to wait out Torres, who had been especially bad lately, entering Saturday hitting .147 in his previous 10 games. They were eighth in MLB in runs scored. Their .742 team OPS was tied with the Atlanta Braves for the fifth-best in the game.

Hitting coach James Rowson and Boone each appeared to be on the same page about what could be ailing Torres at the plate. Torres employs a big leg kick before he swings (though he often ditches it with two strikes). Rowson and Boone seemed concerned about Torres’ head movement, which could affect how he sees the ball. Rowson added that he might not be landing with his front foot in the same place all the time.

“We’ve seen some at-bats where there’s more drift than others and not finding consistency with his landing,” the hitting coach said. “For me, sometimes with him, you see it and you watch it, he goes from the leg lift to just more of the toe tap loading action, still trying to find that timing which will affect how he lands and how his head moves.

“Right now, he’s working on it. It’s a battle but there’s no sense of panic. There’s a sense of urgency more than there’s a sense of panic. It’s more like, he wants to get it, he’s working his butt off to get it, we’re trying to get there faster — or sooner than later.”

Rowson said that Torres was working toward a “consistent point of recognition” when it comes to the pitches he’s facing.

Torres said his troubles were “hard to explain.”

“But everything is moving a lot,” he said. “I’m trying to be more quiet at home plate. Just try to have more consistency in my point of contact and just fighting a lot to have success.”

Could the struggles be getting to Torres, whose five errors were tied for the most in the majors among second basemen with the Chicago Cubs’ Nico Hoerner?

“I don’t worry about that side of it,” Rowson said. “I also know we’re all human and nobody wants to get it faster than he wants to get it. When you’re working at it and you have a couple of days and it doesn’t come, you can get to a level of frustration, and he’s probably got some frustration going because he wants to get it going. But from my side of things, I’ve got full confidence he’s going to be the hitter that we know.”

Boone said it might just be a “classic example that hitting is hard, even for really good players.” And that could be the case for Torres, a two-time All-Star who put up a sturdy 118 OPS+ in 2023.

“Physically, it’s all there for him to click,” Boone said, “and I do think that will happen.”

“I can say that it’s a long season, and at some point when I click, it’s going to be better,” Torres said.

For Torres, it’ll behoove him to get online sooner than later, because it could begin affecting his playing time — and his payday.

(Photo: Wendell Cruz / USA Today)

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