ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It may go down in Yankees history as the worst of Joe Girardi’s player nicknames.
Ronald Torreyes, the pint-sized player who is filling in at shortstop for the injured Didi Gregorius, is known as “Toe” in Girardi-speak.
After losing on Opening Day, the Yankees needed a spark on Tuesday night. (Or should we say “Toe-sday” night? No, we really shouldn’t.)
Anyway, unlikely source Torreyes smacked a two-run homer in the third inning for the first runs of the game and the Yankees’ first home run of the season.
Behind five shutout innings from CC Sabathia, the Yankees went on to a 5-0 victory at Tropicana Field.
Torreyes, who is 5-7 and 150 pounds, hammered the first pitch from Jake Odorizzi deep over the leftfield wall. How many feet was Toe’s homer? Four-hundred and two, according to MLB.com. Toe really nailed it.
Torreyes drove in Aaron Judge, which led to the wondrous scene at home plate of Torreyes reaching way up to two-hand high-five the 6-7 Judge. If you haven’t seen a picture of this moment, find it. It’s worth it.
“That’s the handshake we have,” Torreyes said through a translator. “He puts the hands up high, so I run and jump.”
Torreyes, a 24-year-old Venezuelan, doubled his career home run total. He had one for the Yankees last season. The Bombers bench went nuts.
“It’s awesome,” Chase Headley said. “Toe’s one of those guys that everybody loves to pull for because he works his butt off and he can play 17 different positions and he never complains. He’s just a great teammate, so when he has big hits like that it really fires the team up.”
Headley was the other offensive star for the Yankees. The man known as “Head” to Girardi went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs and has five hits in the first two games.
So as Pete Caldera of The Record (N.J.) wrote on Twitter, the Yankees had this one covered “from Head to Toe.”
Torreyes’ talents were on display in the bottom of the third, as well. The Yankees don’t expect him to hit like Gregorius, who had 20 home runs in 2016. But Torreyes has to field the position.
Daniel Robertson led off the inning with a grounder to the shortstop hole. That’s red meat for any scout to see if a player has the arm for shortstop.
Torreyes muscled up and threw his best fastball. Greg Bird caught it to the rightfield side of first base, but umpire Dan Bellino called Robertson safe and motioned that Torreyes’ throw had pulled Bird off the bag.
Bird signaled across the diamond to the Yankees dugout: Challenge the call. Girardi did, and the call was reversed for the first out of the inning. The throw from Toe did not, in fact, pull Bird off the bag.
One out later, Steven Souza Jr. hit a high bouncer that ticked off Sabathia’s glove and trickled behind the mound. Torreyes fielded and launched his entire body onto the turf as he threw. When Souza was punched out to end the inning, Torreyes was flat on his belly.
That’s what will get Torreyes to stay in the lineup until Gregorius is back, perhaps in early May. Making the plays. Not hitting home runs.
In Sunday’s season opener, Girardi had Aaron Hicks bat for Torreyes in the seventh inning with the Yankees trailing 7-2 and two men on base.
“Torreyes has swung the bat pretty well for us,” Girardi said. “But in that instance I was looking for guys with a little more power.”
Maybe he should have been looking for a little guy with power instead.
First Yankees to homer in the last five seasons:
2017 Ronald Torreyes
2016 Didi Gregorius
2015 Brett Gardner
2014 Brett Gardner
2013 Travis Hafner