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Didi Gregorius slowly begins to simmer at plate

The New York Yankees' Didi Gregorius is congratulated

The New York Yankees' Didi Gregorius is congratulated in the dugout after his two-run home run off a pitch from Texas Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison in the third inning of a game Monday,July 27, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. The homer scored Chase Headley. Credit: AP / Tony Gutierrez

ARLINGTON, Texas - Didi Gregorius doesn't hide from the initial impression he made as Derek Jeter's replacement.

"I started the season slow, everybody knows that," the 25-year-old shortstop said.

But after the first month that was in a word, brutal, Gregorius incrementally has gotten better.

Gregorius' numbers still aren't attention grabbers -- a .248/.261/.340 slash line -- and plenty of Yankees fans remain skeptical he can be the long-term solution at the position.

But a look at his month-by-month performance shows an improving player, albeit at a deliberate pace.

Gregorius struggled out of the gate, hearing boos at the Stadium in April when his slash line was .206/.261/.238. Compounding that, he made several baserunning blunders and his fielding, always a strength, was erratic.

But in May the numbers ticked up to a .232/.300/.341 slash line and then to .258/.293/.366 for the month of June.

After going 3-for-4 with a career-best four RBIs in Monday night's 6-2 victory over the Rangers, Gregorius has a .294/.333/.397 slash line in July. Included in the outburst Monday was his first career homer off a lefthander, a two-run shot in the third off Matt Harrison.

"I just think he's maturing as a player," Joe Girardi said. "He got off to a slow start and we've just kind of seen an upward kick the whole season and this has been his best month. I think June was better than May, May was better than April, and he continues to improve."

Gregorius, traded to the Yankees in the offseason from the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal, said it has been a gradual process getting more comfortable.

"I've been making improvements, making adjustments and trying to get better," Gregorius said. "I keep picking all these guys' brains. We have a lot of veteran guys here. Everybody's helping each other out and making us be a better team. But, yeah, I'm feeling better at the plate."

One of those veteran players has been Alex Rodriguez. Third-base coach Joe Espada asked Rodriguez to work with Gregorius in the field before a game at the Stadium April 28 and to provide a general pep talk.

Back then, with Gregorius at the low point of his season, Rodriguez told reporters and, by extension, fans, not to judge the young shortstop until later in the season.

"Didi's come a long ways," Rodriguez said Monday night. "Like I told you guys in April, let's give it to June 15 and see where he's at. It takes a minute to learn to play in New York. It is different here and Didi has tremendous upside, and we're starting to see a little bit of it now."

Girardi said while Gregorius' numbers weren't spectacular in May, the fact his statistics moderately improved and, more significant, didn't nosedive further, told him the shortstop would be OK.

"You could see it in the second month that he was starting to relax more and you were seeing better at-bats and you were seeing him play the defense that he was capable of," Girardi said. "There were still some steps that he had to take, but it's just been a slow trend up."

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