Didi Gregorius showed Tuesday night against the Rays that his power could be coming
His grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning off Colin Poche shook Yankee Stadium, as fans celebrated the 8-3 lead it gave the Yankees after they faced a 3-2 deficit entering the frame. Zack Britton nailed down the 8-3 win, and after the game, Gregorius said it was just a matter of time.
“It’s getting there,” he said. "I am only here for 100-something at-bats, and I finally got a chance to come through for the team. I’ve been in a tough situation, and I didn’t get hits, but it felt really good to come through for the team like that.”
The Yankees activated Gregorius on June 7 after he missed the first several months recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow for an injury he sustained in the playoffs against the Red Sox. Coming off a career year with 27 home runs, Gregorius was hoping to pick up where he left off.
The early returns haven’t been great, and aside from a six-game stretch (June 24 to July 3) in which he registered multiple hits in each contest, Gregorius has been underwhelming. In 25 games entering Tuesday, his .662 OPS was well below his career mark of .742 and last year’s career-best .829.
“Not coming through for the team – that’s the only thing that’s tough,” Gregorius said. “With the injury, there’s nothing I can do. Things happen. You can’t predict the future. You can’t avoid everything because things happen. That’s all I am trying to do . . . be the best I can be and make adjustments to get better.”
Overcoming Tommy John surgery as a batter can take time, as bolstering strength in the arm doesn’t come right away. Gregorius can look to Corey Seager of the Dodgers and Shohei Ohtani of the Angels for possible inspiration, as both suffered similar struggles over their first 25 games after Tommy John surgery this season. They’ve been demonstrably better since.
Seager’s OPS was .795, and he had managed just two home runs and seven RBIs. In 45 games since (he missed about a month with a hamstring strain), his OPS is .809 and he’s hit six home runs with 32 RBIs.
Ohtani returned on May 7 and posted an OPS of .730 with five home runs in his first 25 games. He caught fire in the next 32 contests, mashing nine home runs with an OPS of 1.048.
All three hitters have produced hard-hit rates below their career averages, according to Statcast on Baseball Savant, but improvements have been made as Seager’s and Ohtani’s seasons have developed. Perhaps the same could happen for Gregorius, who earned a curtain call for his homer.
As a lefthanded batter, Gregorius needs a strong right arm to hit the ball hard and generate power. That could be coming if he follows the trend set by Seager and Ohtani.
“Finally to come through for the team,” Gregorius said. “I’ve been in situations and couldn’t come through and I was finally able to come through, especially against the lefty. That makes it even better.”