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Tyler Wade is separating himself from the pack at second base, but don’t tell him that

The Phillies' Cesar Hernandez, bottom, steals second past

The Phillies' Cesar Hernandez, bottom, steals second past Yankees second baseman Tyler Wade during a spring training game on, Feb. 26, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The more Aaron Boone talks about the competition at second base, the more it sounds as if Tyler Wade has emerged as a solid favorite.

“He’s someone that’s come in ready to go and he’s performed,” Boone said late Friday afternoon before the Yankees lost to the Braves, 3-1, at Champion Stadium. “He’s done a lot of things really well that gets you excited.”

Wade, 23, entered spring training among a group of four who had a realistic shot at the job. The others were top prospect Gleyber Torres, Ronald Torreyes and non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa.

Torreyes has played well, but the Yankees seem to like him in the jack-of-all-trades role he excelled at last season. Torres has shown flashes in the field but hasn’t hit. Espinosa, solid in the field, has cooled at the plate after a hot start.

It has been Wade, who added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame in the offseason after feeling “gassed” toward the end of last season, who has appeared to separate himself.

Entering Friday — Wade did not make the trip to Disney — he had a .318/.385/.364 slash line in 10 games.

The lefthanded-hitting Wade, a shortstop coming up through the system but converted to a super-utility player in 2016, looked comfortable in the field at second, short, left and right in 30 big-league games last season. He looked a step behind at the plate, though, hitting .155 with a .222 on-base percentage during playing time that was sporadic at best. That, Wade felt, played as big a role in his struggles at the plate as anything.

“I didn’t feel like I was overmatched,” said Wade, who counted future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols among his hitting partners this offseason in California. “I didn’t read too much into it. If I get my normal at-bats and my rhythm back, I feel like I can be one of the best guys on the field. That’s just the mentality I have.”

Wade said those words just before the Grapefruit League season began, and his confidence is the same two weeks into games. But he’s also taking the praise he’s received with a grain of salt and certainly isn’t heaping any upon himself.

“I’m never satisfied,” he said Friday afternoon when he was asked to evaluate how he’s performed. “I’m working. Always a work in progress. Each and every day I’m trying to get better and show what I’m able to do on a baseball field.”

Which, Boone said, is plenty. The first-year manager said he had heard a lot of positive things from people in the organization about Wade, but what he’s seen is even better.

“I would say so far he’s surpassed them [his expectations],” Boone said. “He’s made a little adjustment in his stance. Obviously, he’s a little more physical. He’s added strength, so it looks to me like there’s a little more in there swinging the bat than maybe I anticipated.”

It’s been the same at second base and on the bases.

“That’s actually surpassed my expectations too,” Boone said. “It’s real speed. But he’s really instinctual . . . He seems to have a clock out there. There’s been a couple of plays defensively where I’ve looked for someone else to make the play and [suddenly], there he is.’’

One such play took place in the eighth inning Thursday. The Phillies’ Nick Rickles hit a flare into short right, and off the bat, it appeared to be a hit. But Wade charged into the outfield and made a sliding, over-the-shoulder catch.

The overall impression Wade has made has been a good one, but he would allow only this:

“The work I put in in the offseason is starting to pay off a little bit,” he said. “And I’m rolling with it. Just have to keep it going.”

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