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Yankees' Gleyber Torres has the hunger, drive to get better and better

Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres poses during Photo Day

Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres poses during Photo Day at spring training in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 20. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Gleyber Torres tweeted to commemorate the occasion, though hardcore Yankees fans, while perhaps not knowing the exact date,  likely already were familiar with the month and certainly the year.

“Wow! It’s amazing how time flies!” Torres wrote. “Feels just like yesterday I was putting on the pinstripes for the first time in Yankee Stadium! Can’t wait to get back out there!”

It was exactly two years ago Wednesday — April 22, 2018 — when Torres made his big-league debut, starting at second base that Sunday afternoon against the Blue Jays in a 5-1 victory at the Stadium.

Torres went 0-for-4  but collected the first hit of his career a night later in a 14-1 victory over the Twins (the single was a sharp grounder to center in the eighth off righthander Tyler Kinley).

The two days marked the start of a series of “firsts” for the highly touted 21-year-old second baseman, who by season’s end had more than honored his status as the consensus top prospect in the sport.  

Torres hit .271 with an .820 OPS, 24 homers and 77 RBIs in 123 games his first season, finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting (behind Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and teammate Miguel Andujar).

It was a standout debut, but manager Aaron Boone, a rookie like Torres in 2018, quickly picked up on something when the infielder reported for spring training in  2019: Torres wasn’t content.

“I think he worked really hard this winter to put himself in a good position coming in,” Boone said at the time. “Obviously at 21 years of age last year [2018], the kind of season he was able to have for us, I feel like I’m excited to say there wasn’t a real satisfaction from him. It was, ‘I want to get better, I want to be great at this.’ And I think that’s what he showed us this winter with the work he’s put in.

“Gleyber’s hungry,” Boone continued. “Gleyber wants to be a great player in this league. You sense that from different guys, and Gleyber kind of has that drive.”

It showed.

Torres, who had never exhibited a tremendous amount of power in his climb through the minors, blasted 38 homers last season, during which he hit .278 with an .871 OPS and 90 RBIs in 144 games (he hit a total of 24 homers in 373 games in the minors).

“You saw glimpses of the power,” said one opposing team talent evaluator who covered the Yankees’ system while Torres  was in it. “Had great instincts [at the plate] and hit the ball the other way. But I can’t say I saw 40 [homer] potential.”

Torres, now 23, spent the first part of spring training this year transitioning back to his natural position of shortstop. It did not get off to a smooth start, as he committed five errors in his first 10 games. But the Yankees had zero concerns.  

“I think it was just one of those things where he went in a defensive slump and it happened to be early in camp,” bench coach Carlos Mendoza, who doubles as the Yankees' infield coach, said recently by phone from his home in Tampa. “But it goes back to the way he was working and his approach. I was, and am, very confident that he’ll be fine.”

That's been the case more often than not since Torres arrived in the majors exactly two years ago.

New York Sports