The Yankees’ Jasson Dominguez looks on during spring training at George...

The Yankees’ Jasson Dominguez looks on during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Feb. 23. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. – Steinbrenner Field was a beehive of activity well before the sun came up at 7:27 a.m. Monday.

There were bags and boxes to be organized and packed, lockers to be cleaned out, items to be either stored for travel or thrown out.

That rite of spring plays out at big-league spring training sites across Florida and Arizona as teams break camp and scurry for their respective destinations for the start of the regular season.

It is a day of steady clubhouse buzz, the signs definitive that the long six weeks of spring training are over.

The sense of excitement as the day moves along is palpable.

Except for those players left behind.

Players such as Jasson Dominguez.

“Obviously, I wish I could go with the team and play, but at the end of the day, it is what it is,” the centerfielder said quietly, but still with a smile, by his locker Monday. “I have to stay here and try to get healthy and get back soon.”

It could not have been a much different spring in 2024 for Dominguez, who turned just 21 on Feb. 7, than the one he experienced in 2023. Invited to his first big-league camp last February, the switch-hitting Dominguez was electric, regularly showing the considerable skills on both sides of the ball that had the Yankees and rival scouts alike raving about him in the early stages of his minor-league development. He hit .455 with four homers and a 1.565 OPS in 11 Grapefruit League games before being sent to minor-league camp. That move only enhanced the hype around a player nicknamed “The Martian.”

The performance, in addition to tantalizing fans – and the Yankees as well – laid the groundwork for a regular season that saw Dominguez spend much of his time with Double-A Trenton, then make a quick nine-game stopover with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before his call-up Sept. 1.

That development would come to a sudden end after eight memorable games, which included homering in his first career at-bat, as Aaron Judge did Aug. 13, 2016. Judge’s shot came off the Rays’ Matt Andriese at Yankee Stadium. Dominguez, batting fifth, hit his at Minute Maid Park, a house of terrors for the Yankees over the years, on the second pitch he saw from future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander, who has been responsible for so much of the pain inflicted upon the Yankees franchise in October at Minute Maid.

It all came to an end just over a week later when Dominguez was diagnosed with a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Tommy John surgery followed in late September.

Eight games into his big-league career, Dominguez had hit four homers in eight games and posted a .980 OPS.

“What he did in eight games last year, it was impressive,” said Juan Soto who, like Dominguez is from the Dominican Republic and who was very much aware of the prospect when the centerfielder signed with the Yankees in 2019 for a franchise-record $5.1 million signing bonus at the age of 16. “He’s a great kid. He’s really positive with what he’s doing and with what he’s been through. I think that’s one of the biggest things. The mindset that he has is above and beyond.”

To this point there have been no setbacks in Dominguez’s recovery and the timeline for his return to the majors remains what it has been since he underwent surgery – between mid-June and mid-July. Because of their current glut of outfielders, the Yankees have no need to rush Dominguez and, should all of those outfielders remain healthy, the organization looks at it as a good problem to have if that’s the case when the switch-hitting rookie is declared ready to go.

“I try not to think about that because when you think about that, it can seem like so far,” Dominguez said of a June return. “I just go day by day and I know the time will come.”

Dominguez’s locker in the home clubhouse at Steinbrenner Field is located just a few steps away from Soto’s and it was not unusual to see the pair talking, which also was the case behind the scenes.

“I’m not going to lie, it goes through my mind,” Dominguez said of dreaming about the day he’ll join Soto in the Yankees lineup. “I have really, really good impression of him and he seems like a better person than player as I’ve gotten to know him a little bit. Hopefully in the future [soon] I’ll be able to play with him in a game. He’s a great dude.”

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