SARASOTA, Fla. — Didi Gregorius isn’t worried about what a long run for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic would mean for his regular season. In fact, it could only help, the Yankees shortstop said Monday morning.
“This is why I made the decision to go,” said Gregorius, who will leave camp early Tuesday morning for a flight to New York and then a much longer one (14 ½ hours) to Seoul, South Korea, where the Netherlands will begin play March 7. “When you play . . . it’s more competitive in the WBC. So in both of them [spring training and WBC], you’re actually getting ready for the season. There’s nothing actually different.”
Except, he stressed, the competition level is a bit higher in the WBC. Not to mention the travel.
Dellin Betances (Dominican Republic), Tyler Clippard (United States) and Tommy Layne (Italy) won’t leave Yankees camp until Sunday, but they’re not required to fly halfway around the world, either.
“You’ve got to drink a lot of fluids,” Gregorius said. “You don’t want any jet lag. You want to sleep on the plane, too, so you get [used to] that time difference right away.”
Gregorius won’t be the full-time shortstop for a Netherlands team loaded with infield stars. He’ll “flip-flop” at the position, he said, with Andrelton Simmons (Angels). Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox) likely will see most of the time at third and Jonathan Schoop (Orioles) will be mostly at second. Jurickson Profar (Rangers) also is in the infield mix.
“I told myself I wanted to experience it one time because it’s guys that I have played with since I was 6 or 8,” Gregorius said.
He wanted to play in the international tournament three years ago, but an elbow injury kept him out. “In 2011 we became champions [of the Baseball World Cup],’’ he said. “We had a great team and this team is even better, so we’ll see how far we go.”
Gregorius, 27, is coming off a career-best year in which he hit .276 with a .447 slugging percentage and had career highs in homers (20) and RBIs (70). He used a question about that, and prospective personal goals for this season, to discuss his optimism about the Yankees.
“You really want to know what’s in my mind? Getting a ring,” Gregorius said. “That’s the only thing in my mind. That’s the only goal. That’s what everybody wants to get . . . Everybody is counting us out all these years, but we keep giving them a scare. So we’ve just got to play the game. That’s our goal. That’s my goal. And if one of these guys doesn’t have that goal, then we need to sit at my locker and talk about it.”
Gregorius’ locker has been a popular stop for many of the Yankees’ prospects in camp. With Gregorius away, Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade and Jorge Mateo will get more of an opportunity at shortstop in the coming weeks. Torres, one of the top prospects in the game, could be the Yankees’ shortstop of the future, but Gregorius said that’s of no concern to him.
“I talk to all these guys, to everybody that comes here,” he said. “I’m here always at my locker, so I approach them or they approach me. I have nothing against anybody in this clubhouse, because we’re a team.”
Nor does Gregorius have anything against the shadow in which he’s played since taking over for Derek Jeter, who retired after the 2014 season.
“It’s always there,” Gregorius said. “It’s never going to go away because it’s a game of comparisons no matter what you do. You’re always going to get compared. So maybe when he played, he got compared to somebody else. It’s just the way that the game is.”