TAMPA, Fla. — Didi Gregorius’ first season as Derek Jeter’s replacement could not have started much worse.
The shortstop, as late as May 28, had a .206/.268/.401 slash line and his defense, thought to be a strength when he joined the club, was anything but.
Things took off in late May, however, and Gregorius, a bit under the radar, was one of the Yankees’ more consistent performers for the final 113 games, posting a .285/.336/.279 slash line. His glove also picked up considerably, showing the range and arm scouts had said, if nothing else, would be a given.
“It was a year for improvement for me,” Gregorius, 26, said. “It started really slow, everybody knows that, and I picked up probably halfway through and I’ll be trying to keep that going this year.”
From the time he reported to spring training in 2015 and throughout the season, the “replacing Jeter” questions were a constant. He won’t hear them nearly as much this year, though the shortstop said the pressure inherent in replacing Jeter never affected him.
“It just happened,” Gregorius said of his awful start. “Nothing to do with it.”
Gregorius is familiar with his new second baseman, Starlin Castro, from his years in the National League (2012-14 with the Reds and Diamondbacks).
“Everybody, as soon as he made it to the big leagues a long time ago with the Cubs, knew (he was) going to be a star,” Gregorius said. “Now he’s here and he’s going to be a star here.”
Gregorius, Castro, Chase Headley, Carlos Beltran and the just-signed Chris Parmelee were among the position players working out at the minor league complex Tuesday morning. Jacoby Ellsbury arrived at Steinbrenner Field late Tuesday afternoon. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were expected to land in Tampa Tuesday night.
A-Rod’s arrival to camp will, of course, create some headlines, but nothing near a year ago when he was coming off a season-long suspension and a war with the Yankees that spilled into the public.
“I think it will be less fanfare, I think there will be less attention paid to him from the media,” Girardi said. “I guess I’ll find out on Thursday. But I don’t imagine the press conference about him and the questions I was asked about him will be nearly as numerous as last year.”