Players and coaches have raved about Anthony Rizzo and the impact he’s had since coming over from the Cubs before last Friday’s trade deadline.
Add hitting coach Marcus Thames to the list.
"My job is to stay out of the way and don't try to screw him up," Thames said with a laugh before the Yankees started a key four-game series against the Mariners Thursday night at the Stadium.
There seems to be little chance of that happening.
Rizzo has been a revelation since coming over from the Cubs, in the field, at the plate and even in the clubhouse.
"He’s a winning player," one clubhouse insider said. "You heard about the (kind of) leader he was (in Chicago). You saw it here Day 1."
On the field, Rizzo could not be off to a much better start. He’s proven to be a significant defensive upgrade at first base. And at the plate, entering Thursday, Rizzo was 8-for-20 (.400) with three homers, six RBIs, four walks and a 1.369 OPS in six games.
His homer in Wednesday night’s 10-3 victory over the Orioles – his third since the trade and first at the Stadium – gave Rizzo at least one RBI in each of his first six games as a Yankee, making him the only player in franchise history to accomplish that feat since RBIs became an official statistic in 1920.
"Definitely special," Rizzo said. "To be able to come in at the trade deadline and just have success right away, it’s something I’ll never take for granted, these last few games and this start. To be No. 1 at anything for a Yankee is very special. It’s very humbling because of the history here and all the success here."
The homer came in Rizzo’s second plate appearance of the night; the first was a memorable 13-pitch battle with Orioles starter Matt Harvey in which the he fouled off eight pitches and sent several bombs foul before finally settling for a walk, which that electrified the dugout almost as much as his homer did.
"I was just saying, the pitcher, he had nowhere else to go," Thames said of what went through his mind during the 13-pitch appearance. "I watched a game earlier this season (when Rizzo was with the Cubs) . . . he had the same kind of at-bat and he ended up hitting a homer. It's just (you’re) wearing the pitcher down. His teammates get a chance to see every single pitch, he gets to see every single pitch and it helped him throughout the game. The next at-bat, he ended up hitting the homer."
Thames, of course, is overseeing a group that has mostly underperformed this season. Speaking earlier in the season, Thames talked about how the slump affected him.
"Look at my eyes, I’ve got bags under them, I don't sleep," Thames said back on June 1, smiling wearily. "It is [personal] and I tell guys this all the time: I’m in every pitch with these guys; every single pitch from pitch No. 1 to the last pitch of the game. And you feel it because you know how hard they're working and how much preparation they're doing."
There are indications the offense just might – "might" the key word – be kicking it into gear but Thames isn’t ready to go there.
"We're not done. We're not done and we’ve got a lot more work to do," Thames said Thursday. "We’ve got some heavy lifting to do and we just have to take it one game at a time. It's the same (preparation), we're still diving into stuff, just trying to make sure that we're on the same page throughout the whole lineup."