With three weeks to go in the regular season and the Yankees starting the day out of a playoff spot, manager Aaron Boone dropped a bombshell in his lineup for Monday afternoon's makeup game against the Twins.
After two years of the Yankees insisting Gleyber Torres was their shortstop, Boone moved him back to second base and started Tyler Wade at short.
Torres hadn’t started at second base since the end of the 2019 season. Boone indicated the move isn’t temporary.
"I just feel like this past week, where you struggled a little bit out there defensively, I feel like it's been a weight on him this week," Boone said. "And I just feel like this is something that hopefully can take a little weight off him as we move forward now."
Torres went 0-for-4 but scored the winning run as the ghost runner in the 10th inning of the Yankees’ 6-5 victory over Minnesota. He handled one chance at second cleanly.
DJ LeMahieu started at third base. After Wade was removed for a pinch hitter, Gio Urshela took over at short. Boone said Urshela probably will start at the position on Tuesday in Baltimore.
Andrew Velazquez, whom the Yankees optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Saturday night’s game, is not eligible to be recalled until 10 days have passed (unless he is replacing a player who goes on the injured list).
The impetus for the seismic shifting so late in the season is Torres’ continued defensive struggles at short, a position he played in the minors until the Yankees moved him to second base when he reached the majors.
Torres opened 2019 at shortstop as Didi Gregorius recovered from Tommy John surgery and played better than most expected. He moved back to second when Gregorius returned midseason, but the Yankees saw enough of Torres at short to let Gregorius depart as a free agent before the 2020 season.
Also, Torres hit .278 with 38 homers and an .871 OPS in 2019, so the Yankees figured they could live with less than Gold Glove defense.
But Torres hasn’t been that quality of hitter since 2019. In an injury-plagued and shortened 2020, he hit .243 with three homers and a .724 OPS and committed nine errors in 40 games.
Torres is hitting .249 with seven homers and a .669 OPS. He has 18 errors in 108 games at short, including two costly ones in the weekend series against the Mets. His error in the second inning of the Yankees' 7-6 loss on Sunday set the stage for three unearned runs to score as Francisco Lindor hit a three-run homer with two outs.
"I think it sometimes becomes such a story [when Torres makes an error]," Boone said. "One play becomes such a storyline and a narrative that lasts a long time, which I think at times has been really unfair because I think there’s been large chunks of really steady play out there for us this year.
"My sense is that I feel like this last week has weighed on him. He’s made a couple of mistakes and then all of a sudden you’re out there playing a little bit tentative and not to make a mistake, and that’s what I don’t want to see. Obviously, we’re at a critical point of the year where we’re getting down to the end, and I don’t really want that to snowball a little bit.
"I feel like just sliding him over might take a little bit of that pressure off, and feel like we’re equipped as a team to be able to have some moving parts to be able to handle that."
Boone said Torres was "receptive" and "ready to go" when told of the move.
If the Yankees would like to make the change permanent for 2022, there will be several top shortstops on the free-agent market this winter, including Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Baez and Marcus Semien.
Taillon improving. Jameson Taillon (ankle) played catch and "was surprised at actually how good he felt," Boone said, adding that the hope is to get Taillon on a mound "pretty quick."