After becoming the youngest player in Yankees history to hit a walk-off homer, Gleyber Torres kept repeating a phrase that certainly applies to his first 15 days as a major-leaguer:
You know what’s super-awesome? Winning 14 of your first 15 big-league games, as Torres has done. Hitting a walk-off three-run home run to give the Yankees a 7-4 victory over the Indians, as Torres did on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
More super-awesome? How about hitting .327 with an .857 OPS in your first 52 at-bats. How about playing second base like a defensive back, roaming around short rightfield when the shift is on to pick off would-be base hits with the arm of a shortstop, which Torres did twice on Sunday in support of Domingo German.
How about sharing the biggest stage with fellow rookie German, who was pulled by manager Aaron Boone after throwing six no-hit innings in his first major-league start. How about being in the lineup with another rookie, third baseman Miguel Andujar, who had a walk-off hit of his own on Friday.
All of that, in one way or another, was super-awesome to Torres, who does interviews in English after using an interpreter last year.
Torres reached the majors only about two weeks ago, but ever since he was acquired in the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs in July 2016, he has been a major presence in the hearts and minds of Yankees fans as one of baseball’s brightest prospects.
Torres would have been in the majors last year had he not suffered a season-ending injury to his non-throwing elbow that required Tommy John surgery. He also would have started 2017 as the Opening Day shortstop at age 20 if general manager Brian Cashman had not overruled his coaching staff after Didi Gregorius suffered a shoulder injury in the World Baseball Classic.
Joe Girardi and Co. wanted Torres, but Cashman went with the patient approach. He was patient again this year, waiting until April 22 to call up Torres to replace the struggling Tyler Wade and Neil Walker at second base.
The Yankees had won the night before, so it’s not as if Cashman was summoning a savior. He couldn’t have known that Torres was joining a juggernaut that was about to win 14 of the next 15 games, including Sunday’s, in which the Yankees trailed 4-0 entering the bottom of the eighth.
The Yankees scored three in the eighth as desperate Indians manager Terry Francona called on closer Cody Allen for a five-out save. The Yankees tied it two batters into the ninth on doubles by Aaron Hicks and Walker.
Francona brought in Dan Otero, who got Andujar to ground out. With first base open, Francona decided to intentionally walk pinch hitter Giancarlo Stanton, a choice based more on Stanton’s reputation than his recent at-bats.
That brought up Torres, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He worked the count to 3-and-2 before unloading on the game-ending blast into the Yankees’ bullpen. Bedlam ensued in the Bronx.
“I was super-excited about that,” Torres said. “Also felt better to help my team win and excited.”
At 21 years and 144 days, he became the youngest Yankee to hit a walk-off homer. Mickey Mantle was 21 years and 185 days when he beat the Red Sox with a three-run blast on April 23, 1953.
Torres, like all potentially great young players before him, must have ice water in his veins and a belief that he is going to succeed. The moment was not too big for him.
“It’s very rare,” Walker said. “He’s stepped into this role and he’s kind of taken off. It’s really impressive.”
Boone called it “special” and added, “He’s been an impact player for us. What more can you say?”
We’ll go with Torres’ words: super-awesome.
Youngest to hit walk-off homer in Yankees history:
Gleyber Torres (2018) 21 years, 144 days
Mickey Mantle (1953) 21 years, 185 days
Melky Cabrera (2006) 21 years, 341 days
Joe DiMaggio (1937) 22 years, 266 days
Mickey Mantle (1954) 22 years, 275 days
Clint Frazier (2017) 22 years, 305 days
Source: YES Network