TAMPA, Fla. — It has been all about the “kids” in Yankees camp, and appropriately so, as those are the players the franchise has been pushing since last season’s trade deadline.
It is the reason most of the older players on the roster mostly have flown under the radar, even as a few have delivered strong performances early in spring training.
Matt Holliday, who signed a one-year, $13-million deal last December, is one of them. The 37-year-old, who spent the last 7½ seasons with the Cardinals, doubled twice in Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Pirates at Steinbrenner Field.
Holliday went 2-for-3 with a run in improving to 7-for-14 with three doubles, a homer and three RBIs in six games.
“He looks like he’s in a pretty good spot already,” Joe Girardi said.
While many veterans say they’re not concerned with results at this time of year, Holliday said he is, to a degree.
“You want to get results. You want to hit the ball hard, have good at-bats,” said Holliday, who has hit at least 20 homers in 10 of his 13 seasons in the big leagues. “I like to compete and it’s a big part of it, the pitcher-batter competition element. It’s one of the things about baseball I enjoy, so it’s something I treat pretty serious.”
That, of course, is music to the ears of Girardi, whose own competitive juices get flowing rather easily regardless of the time of year.
“He really understands the game and he makes an impact on and off the field,” Girardi said. “That’s what you want from players, especially with all the experiences he’s been through in his career playing in a city like St. Louis, where they expect to win every year. I think he can have a huge impact on this club.”
As he got older, Holliday took on a leadership role in the Cardinals’ clubhouse, and he’s already taken to mentoring some of the young players on his new team. Aaron Judge, who lockers nearby, is among them.
“Befriended him early so nobody messes with me,” the 6-4, 240-pound Holliday said with a smile, referencing the 6-7, 275-pound Judge. “He’s great. Really a good kid.”
Holliday had a .246/.322/.461 slash line in 110 games last season, with 20 homers and 62 RBIs. He missed nearly seven weeks with a broken right thumb before returning for the final weekend of the season.
People in the game throw around the word “professional” a lot when describing Holliday, and he said he likes what he’s observed along those lines from his younger teammates.
“I had heard that they were very talented and highly thought of, but having laid my eyes on them and seen them perform, I’ve been very impressed,” Holliday said. “They’re smart and seem to know what they’re doing and to have their head on their shoulders.”
What does Holliday look for most in younger players?
“You watch how they work, the kinds of questions they ask,” he said. “You hear them talking and what they’re thinking. You just kind of watch how they go about their business. That says a lot. If you combine talent with work ethic and a feel for the game, that’s usually when you get big-time studs.”