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After standout rookie year, Gleyber Torres off to a good start

The Yankees' Gleyber Torres gestures as he runs

The Yankees' Gleyber Torres gestures as he runs toward first after hitting a three-run home run during the sixth inning of the team's baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on April 4, 2019, in Baltimore. Credit: AP/Nick Wass

BALTIMORE – Gleyber Torres continues to be associated with the elite.

After going 4-for-4 with two homers and a double in Thursday’s 8-4 victory over the Orioles, Torres, at 22 years, 112 days old, became the youngest Yankee to collect three extra-base hits and four hits total in a game since Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio, at 21 years, 216 days old, did it June 28, 1936, in St. Louis.

The two-homer game was Torres’ third, making him one of seven players in franchise history with at least three multi-homer games through his first 130 career games, joining Gary Sanchez (five), Aaron Judge (three), Aaron Robinson (four), DiMaggio (three) and Joe Pepitone. DiMaggio and Pepitone were the only ones previously to accomplish the feat before turning 23.

“Talented player,” said James Paxton, who watched Torres as an opposing player last season. “He can do it all. Hits really well, plays great defense. Just an overall good player.”

Torres finished third in last season’s American League Rookie of the Year voting behind Shohei Ohtani and teammate Miguel Andujar. He hit .271 with 24 homers and 77 RBIs, ranking second among rookies in RBIs and fourth in homers.

He faded a bit in the season’s second half, in part because of injury. He was hitting .294 with a .905 OPS on July 4, but a day later, he was placed on the disabled list (now the injured list) with a right hip strain. After returning July 25, he hit .249 with a .733 OPS and nine homers in the final 60 games.

Torres changed his diet in the offseason to add more muscle to his frame. He said during spring training that a big part of his motivation was to stay healthy for the whole season.

“I don’t feel good about that. I felt sad and mad,” Torres said of his DL stint. “I understand it’s a part of the game, but I don’t want any more injuries, so I prepared really well this offseason.”

Torres, who started at shortstop and batted sixth Saturday night, entered the game hitting .357 with a 1.022 OPS.

“He’s really good at locking in, usually the bigger the situation, which is a great trait to have,” Aaron Boone said. “But just really challenging him all the time, we talk on defense finishing plays, finishing the routine, really working hard to grind at-bats no matter the situation, and I think he continues to make strides there.”

Without question, Torres has embraced the “big” situation. Of his 26 career homers going into Saturday, 13 either tied the score or gave the Yankees the lead. Fourteen of his homers came with runners on base.

“I’m focused every time, but of course when the game’s on the line, I try to do my job, I feel a little more excited and just try to [come through],” Torres said. “Helping your team, there’s no better feeling than that.”

What most impresses Aaron Judge about Torres as a hitter? He thought for a couple of seconds before responding.

“The fact he can use the whole field and use it with power,” Judge said. “Especially a guy that plays second and shortstop, for him to come up and hit homers to leftfield and [then] also he’s spraying doubles down the rightfield line. It’s just impressive what he can do at such a young age. He’s got a great approach at the plate. He goes up there with a plan. You don’t see him up there too many just free-swinging. He usually comes up there with a plan and he usually comes away with a pretty good at-bat.”

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