Yankees’ Anthony Volpe gets a base hit in the top...

Yankees’ Anthony Volpe gets a base hit in the top of the first inning while playing the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida, on Saturday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Anthony Volpe at the plate in 2023 was barely recognizable to those who watched his development in the minor leagues.

“Not the same player,” said one American League scout assigned to the Yankees’ organization. “It was like, ‘What are you doing?’ [In the minors], his barrel stayed in the zone, he hit the ball everywhere. Really could spray it to right. Now all of a sudden [in the majors], he wants to pull the ball and ends up hitting [.209].”

Volpe, 22, did hit 21 homers in 2023 — and won the AL Gold Glove at shortstop as a rookie — but he  spent the offseason trying to get back to the kind of hitter he was when he soared through the minor-league system after the Yankees made him their first-round pick in 2019.

Not necessarily the kind of hitter who would be a threat to win a batting title, but not the pull-happy strikeout machine and low-on-base-percentage hitter  he became under former hitting coach Dillon Lawson in 2023, when he had a .282 OBP and struck out 167 times in 541 at-bats.

It was those numbers, not the 21 homers or the Gold Glove, that motivated Volpe in the offseason. He wanted to flatten his bat path and get away from what rival scouts who watched the Yankees throughout 2023 cited as a drastic “uppercut” in his swing.

“The goal [is] making me the hitter I know I can be and I know I should be. The best hitters have a high average and don’t strike out, so that’s the goal,” said Volpe, who batted leadoff in Saturday’s 22-10 victory over the Tigers.

Aaron Boone said of the tweaks Volpe has made: “I do feel like he’s had a really strong winter in that regard. I think he’s worked a lot on his swing becoming more flat in the strike zone, which hopefully makes him a little bit more versatile in the strike zone too.”

Boone said the mechanical adjustments Volpe made have been “very evident.”

The manager, entering his seventh season, said it was “noticeable” from the first time he saw Volpe take batting practice in January at the minor-league complex (like many of his teammates, Volpe was a regular at the complex starting in early January).

“The first time I saw him hit this winter . . .  you [could] see some of the adjustments he’s been working on, and it’s noticeable,” Boone said before Saturday’s game.

Boone then watched Volpe hit three balls hard in an offensive onslaught by the Yankees, who totaled 15 hits. He smashed a ground-ball single up the middle in his first at-bat and finished 1-for-3 (he stung two other grounders but hit them right at the shortstop and third baseman, respectively).

“I thought Volp had good at-bats all day,” Boone said. “Set the tone up there for us.”

Boone's decision to bat Volpe leadoff was more a product of the skeleton crew of regulars who made the trip here. The Yankees have split-squad games Sunday at home against the Blue Jays, when many of the front-liners will make their debuts, and against the Phillies in Clearwater, where Marcus Stroman will start for the first time as a Yankee.

Boone has said his preference is for DJ LeMahieu to be his leadoff hitter, meaning Volpe is all but certain to be hitting near or at the bottom of the order when the regular season begins. But Volpe is a contender to bat leadoff when LeMahieu does not play and, depending on how his career progresses, it’s a spot he may well occupy regularly.

For Volpe, this spring training is about demonstrating growth at the plate from his rookie season. Not so much in the numbers — they don’t matter at this time of year except for those trying to make the team, and Volpe will be the club’s Opening Day shortstop — but in the bat-to-ball skills that were so much a part of his game until last year.

“I feel comfortable with it,” Volpe said of the adjustments. “I’m not thinking about anything, just going out there and playing, so that’s always a nice feeling.”

More Yankees headlines

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME