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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Torres injury means Yankees again must rely on superior depth

Rookie goes on DL and Yanks must do what they do best — rely on depth to patch holes and lean on rest of the lineup to pick up any slack.

New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres returns

New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres returns to the dugout after he strikes out swinging against the Atlanta Braves during the second inning of an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, July 4, 2018. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Gleyber Torres may be untouchable when it comes to trade talks, but he’s not invincible. Even a 21-year-old infield prodigy, talented beyond his years, can get hurt. And now the Yankees will be without him for an indefinite period after he went on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with a right hip strain, yet another key injury for a team trying to stay neck-and-neck with the Red Sox.

Aaron Boone held a second postgame news conference after the 6-2 victory over the Braves specifically to address Torres’ MRI results, which the manager said revealed a “mild” strain. But any injury of any severity is never a minor issue when it involves a player of Torres’ importance, so consider this the latest speed bump for a Yankees team that is winning at a pace that would produce 108 victories.

“We’re hoping that it’s a short stint,” Boone said.

Torres had been fighting the hip issue for the past few days, and Boone left him out of Tuesday’s starting lineup to rest before inserting him as a defensive replacement. He was back in for Wednesday’s series finale but made it only halfway through as Neil Walker took over at second base in the top of the fifth inning.

That was the most concerning part. Clearly, Torres was bothered by something and tried to push through it — an admirable quality, but also a slippery slope if the condition is more serious than initially believed. He struck out twice and tried to stretch his hip area during those at-bats, pulling up his right leg behind him and squatting repeatedly.

So what does it mean in the short term? Torres was having an All-Star first half, batting .294 with 15 homers, 42 RBIs and a .905 OPS, putting him on track for serious Rookie of the Year consideration. Replacing that type of production won’t be easy. Walker is expected to get most of the reps at second base. Tyler Wade could be called up. Ronald Torreyes currently is unavailable because he’s on temporary leave from Triple-A Scranton while taking care of a personal issue.

As a result, the Yankees are left to do what they do best: Rely on their superior depth to patch holes and lean on the rest of the lineup to pick up any slack.

When the rotation lost Jordan Montgomery and Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees summoned Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga and barely missed a beat. Then Gary Sanchez landed on the DL with a groin strain, elevating backup Austin Romine, who missed almost all of the past four games himself with a sore hamstring.

In Romine’s place has been Kyle Higashioka, a career minor-leaguer who was a seventh-round draft pick in 2008 and has played only 15 games in the majors. The past four, however, have been remarkable. Higashioka’s first career hit was Sunday’s home run off Red Sox starter David Price, which snapped an 0-for-22 skid, and he smacked two more in as many days, including a solo shot Wednesday in the fourth inning.

Higashioka has three hits and they’re all home runs; he and Alfonso Soriano are the only two Yankees to accomplish the feat. He’s also the first player overall to do it since the Rockies’ Trevor Story belted four straight in 2016. Maybe it’s something in the Bronx water; the Yankees went deep three times Wednesday and now have 144 homers, which is 20 more than the Red Sox for tops in the majors. Or the Yankees simply are so well-stocked in the farm system that everyone is ready to perform when they put on pinstripes, as Higashioka proved again.

“This organization, for the past few years, has been pretty deep,” he said. “There’s a lot of great players in the minor leagues right now that could be major-leaguers if they were elsewhere.”

Torres already was one of the top-rated prospects in the sport when the Yankees got him from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade two years ago, and he has been even better than advertised. He has been the envy of MLB, making him the player every team asks about when trying to do business with the Yankees.

Brian Cashman, however, has declared Torres off limits in those discussions — yes, even to the Mets for Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard. The wrinkle now is that the Yankees won’t have him either for roughly two weeks, and that’s if they’re lucky.

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