Chase Headley’s early struggles last year were so irrefutable that even the Yankees’ scoreboard has to acknowledge them now.
The pregame scoreboard segments — usually bits of rah-rah positivity for early birds intent on watching batting practice — included an interview with Headley on Monday, and the very first question addressed the third baseman’s woeful April 2016. That’s about as much proof as you need that Headley’s current April is going very, very well.
“I think it probably stands out more because it’s pretty fresh in our minds, the struggles that he went through last year and how hard we were pulling for him to get going,” Joe Girardi said before the game against the White Sox, in which Headley batted fifth and had an RBI double in four at-bats. “He’s used the whole field, he’s been patient, he’s taken his walks, he’s been on base a ton for us, he’s stolen some bases, scored runs, hit the ball out of the ballpark. He’s done it all.”
Going into Monday, Headley had a slash line of .410/.531/.615 with two homers, 11 runs and three stolen bases. He had 16 hits by April 16; last year, he didn’t have that many until May 11. He hit .150 with no extra-base hits in April 2016.
“It’s the complete opposite of the way the year started last year, so it’s great to see,” Girardi said. “We remember the struggles he went through last year and how hard it was.”
Judge making marked improvements
Girardi said he can see how Aaron Judge has tweaked his game in an effort to improve from last year.
“It’s a lot different,” Girardi said of Judge, who hit his team-leading fourth home run Monday night, a two-run shot, and drove in three runs. He’s hitting .275.
“Much more consistent contact. I think [he’s] ready to hit early in counts a lot of the time, into his legs more, mechanically more sound, and he’s impacting the baseball, I think, more often. That’s a lot of differences, but that’s how I’d sum it up.”
Greg Bird, who went 3-for-3 Sunday after starting his season 1-for-26, was held out of the starting lineup Monday night against White Sox lefty Derek Holland. “We feel that he’s an everyday player,” Girardi said. “Holland is tough on lefties. I mean, really, really tough. We got as many righties as we could in there.” . . . Adam Warren walked Tyler Saladino with two outs in the seventh inning, snapping a streak of 22 straight batters retired to start the season. He gave up a hit to Melky Cabrera to lead off the eighth before erasing him on a double play . . . Before the game, Brett Gardner was presented the 2016 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award for leftfielders . . . The Yankees traded Triple-A reliever Johnny Barbato to the Pirates for a player to be named or cash.