Yankees' Anthony Volpe makes good impression to end spring training
WASHINGTON — Chill out, Anthony.
You already made the team.
Anthony Volpe, making his second start since the Yankees named him the winner of the spring training shortstop competition, played Tuesday afternoon as if he hadn’t won a thing.
The 21-year-old made two terrific defensive plays and added a hit in two at-bats in a 3-0 loss to the Nationals at Nationals Park that officially closed out both teams’ exhibition seasons.
Next up for the Yankees — and Volpe, who grew up a die-hard Yankees fan in Watchung, New Jersey — is Thursday’s season opener at the Stadium against the San Francisco Giants.
“I mean, he’s going to have some adrenaline for sure,” said Gerrit Cole, the Opening Day starter who, like Volpe, grew up a passionate fan of the franchise. “Some people have more adrenaline than others. Some people have tools on how to handle it. Some people just embrace it and roll with it, a couple of our veterans come to mind. But it’s going to be his own unique experience.”
Cole can associate with the feeling of growing up a Yankees fan, but the ace righthander was already well established as a big-leaguer when he made his debut for his favorite team in 2020.
Volpe will be the first Yankees rookie to start Opening Day since, you guessed it, Aaron Judge did so in 2017. Getting the start in right, and batting eighth that afternoon in St. Petersburg, Florida, Judge went 1-for-4 in a 7-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
“It’s going to be great,” Judge said Tuesday. “My first one was in Tampa and in the Trop it didn’t feel like Opening Day. But him getting a chance to have his first Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in front of family and friends . . . man, what an opportunity. I’m excited for him.”
Judge continued: “He’s going to be nervous, there’s going to be jitters, but what I’ve seen in camp, that kind of stuff doesn’t faze him. So just go out there, do what got him in this position, what got him to win the position. Just go out there and have some fun. And make sure you also have a roll call for the Bleacher Creatures. I have to talk to him about that. But he probably knows.”
Volpe, smiling as he usually does, said he’s very much aware he’ll need something for the Creatures.
“I have to think about what I’m going to do because some of the guys [teammates] have asked me what I’m going to do,” Volpe said. “I haven’t even thought about any of that stuff yet.”
Volpe finished the spring hitting .309 with three homers, six doubles and a 1.033 OPS in 19 games, all while distinguishing himself in the field, both at short and second base. The club’s first-round draft pick in 2019 (taken 30th overall), as general manager Brian Cashman put it earlier this week, “put a stranglehold” on winning the job early in camp and never let up.
Of how he’ll feel hearing Yankee Stadium public address announcer Paul Olden say his name during pregame ceremonies, Volpe said: “I don’t really know how to put words to how I expect to feel.”
The rookie, who hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll stick with No. 77 or choose another number (don’t be surprised if he stays with 77), also seamlessly walked the not-always-easy-to-walk line of navigating a veteran clubhouse as a young player.
“I think his preparation is elite,” Cole said. “I think his talent is elite . . . I’m just starting to kind of get to know him now. But watching him from afar, he looks like he has a lot of the characteristics of other great players that I’ve watched over the years.”
Judge said Volpe’s “just all- around great at-bats” stood out the most to him from the shortstop’s spring.
“You wouldn’t know he’s 21,” said Judge, who was also wowed by Volpe’s defensive gems Tuesday — a diving stop behind second base of a CJ Abrams ground smash in the second and a diving catch of a Luis Garcia liner in the fourth. “Like, if I saw that kid playing and he told me he was a 27-year-old guy we just traded for, I’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, looks like he’s got some experience.’ Just his demeanor, his calmness. It’s fun to see and fun to have that in the lineup.”