For those of you calling for the end of Gleyber Torres batting almost exclusively ninth in the Yankees’ order, manager Aaron Boone heard your pleas.
For one night, anyway.
Torres, the 21-year-old super rookie, hit fifth against Rays lefthander Blake Snell on Thursday night in Boone’s all- righthanded (including switch hitters) lineup.
Boone looked pretty smart when Torres launched the go-ahead, three-run home run in the fifth inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 victory over the Rays at Yankee Stadium.
It was Torres’ 13th home run in 155 at-bats and his first from a spot other than the nine-hole.
If Boone wants to keep looking smart, he should find a way to give Torres an extended run in the top third of the lineup. Torres is proving to be much more than a Gleyber of the month (thank you, John Sterling). More like a Gleyber of the year.
“Another huge hit by GT there,” Boone said.
Torres has not hit higher than fifth yet. How about second in the regular lineup, nestled between Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge?
Torres, who has five three-run homers, has earned the right to graduate from the bottom. Boone should put production ahead of pedigree, especially when it comes to Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton, who could both stand to see life from below for a while.
Sanchez returned to the lineup after two games in Boone-sponsored exile. On Wednesday, Boone wouldn’t even use Sanchez as a pinch hitter for Greg Bird in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss to the Nationals against lefthanded closer Sean Doolittle. Bird struck out.
But there was Sanchez on Thursday in the four-hole. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout, two walks and a pop-up to drop his average to .188.
Stanton hit third. Or should we say “batted” third. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. When he wasn’t flailing twice at strike three, Stanton grounded weakly to third and banged into a double play. Boos that were a murmur for Stanton after his first strikeout became a small chorus after he hit into a 5-4-3 DP to end the seventh. And the Yankees were winning.
Stanton’s biggest contributions came on defense when he threw out a runner at the plate to end the third inning and grabbed the last out of the game on a foul ball by the stands in left. But Stanton doesn’t have a $325-million contract because of his arm or glove.
Boone said the other day he is not “protecting” Torres by keeping him ninth.
“He’s a good player and wherever I hit him, I don’t worry about him,” Boone said. “More just our lineup and how it sets up, I feel like the nine-hole is such a valuable spot in our order because of our team . . . No, I’m not protecting him from anything.”
But it sure seems like it — and this is a confident, almost cocky kid who doesn’t need protecting. Maybe Stanton is the one who would respond to the lower pressure associated with the bottom of the order.
Miguel Andujar could move up from his usual seventh or eighth to provide extra-base power in the middle. The rookie third baseman went 1-for-4 with a double from the sixth spot on Thursday.
But mostly this is about Torres. Things are looking up for the Yankees in part because their young second baseman arrived early.
This isn’t Derek Jeter batting ninth as a rookie in 1996 before moving up under Joe Torre. Jeter hit 10 home runs that year and was a table-setter.
Torres is a table-clearer, an unexpected power source after never hitting more than 11 homers in the minors. He’ll never be No. 2, but he certainly can bat No. 2.
Might as well ride that as far as you can — as far as Torres’ majestic two-out homer carried on Thursday. All the way to the leftfield stands and all the way to a Yankees victory.