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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Life with Gleyber Torres continues to be a perplexing ride

The Orioles' Anthony Santander is safe on a

The Orioles' Anthony Santander is safe on a steal as Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres tries to tag him during the third inning of a game Thursday in Baltimore. Credit: AP/Gail Burton

The Yankees already made one Gleyber Torres decision earlier this week by moving him to second base for the remainder of this season. They’ll have another involving Torres this winter when it’s time to map out the 2022 roster.

In the meantime, life with Gleyber continues to be a perplexing ride, and the first two wins over the Orioles seemed to convince the Yankees -- for now -- that he’s worth the recent aggravation. Along the way, Aaron Boone will do whatever he can to cast the baffling Torres in the most positive light.

Take Wednesday’s ninth inning for example. Torres helped spark the game-winning rally with a single, pulled off a double steal with Tyler Wade, then later hustled home with the go-ahead run on Brett Gardner’s bloop behind shortstop.

All good, right? Not exactly. There were two ways to look at that play. Either Torres made a brilliant read on what looked off the bat like a catchable ball to everyone else or he was bit too reckless on the basepaths, the latter being more consistent with his head-scratching style of play lately.

Torres bolted from second base as the Gardner rainbow floated toward shallow leftfield and rounding third when it finally dropped. If the flare had been caught, Torres was dead. Fortunately for the Yankees, it didn’t go that way, and after a day to reflect, Boone lauded Torres for the bold decision.

"I thought it was a good read right away," Boone said Thursday. "From my vantage point, with the infield being in, I felt it was a hit all the way. He actually slowed down when he got to third, when he probably already was in no-man’s land, so at that point, just keep on rolling.

"But I thought the initial read was aggressive, and really good actually. More often than not, you see guys really hold up there, making sure, and end up stuck at third base in that situation. He did a good job of knowing the infield was in and making the initial right read. He probably should have followed through even a little better so there’s no chance of a play at the plate."

Torres’ ninth-inning hustle didn’t erase his defensive brainlock in the eighth, when he inexplicably threw to first base on a dropped liner rather than get the lead runner, who easily would have been out at second on a potential double-play grounder. Torres wasn’t available after the game to explain himself, but the mistake was ultimately excused.

The Yankees’ policy on Torres’ defense has stayed the same since his first day in pinstripes. If the plate production is there, they’ll live with the rest. The problem with that policy, however, is Torres no longer is the same 38-homer threat of 2019 -- yet the Yankees keep chasing that feeling.

Heading into Thursday’s series finale, Torres was hitting .304 (21-for-69) with 10 runs scored, five doubles, one homer and eight RBIs since Aug. 1, a span of 20 games. But his suspect glove at shortstop finally convinced the Yankees to bump him over to second base on Monday, with the thinking that the move could also help clear his head, or "change the narrative" as Boone first framed it.

So far, that strategy hasn’t worked. In Tuesday’s 7-2 win, Torres made an error that blew a double-play chance then later was pulled by Boone for failing to run out a grounder in the eighth. The following night, Torres threw to the wrong base on a fairly routine play that normally requires very little thought.

With the defensive miscues following him to second, I asked Boone if Torres required any additional attention, even just checking in to make sure his head was in the right place recently with everything going on. Boone didn’t sound all that concerned, despite what he’s been witnessing lately, due to the fact that Torres seemed to bounce back from the earlier missteps.

‘We definitely have those conversations with him," Boone said. "But I feel like he’s responded to some adversity within the game. That’s been important to see. And I continue to say, if we can get him going like he’s capable of, he’s a real difference-maker for us.

"Anything’s possible here moving forward with how we align things. But I feel like it’s important to try and get him going, too."

Hmm. Boone wasn’t making any guarantees to Torres with that statement, so at least he’s been taking notes. And it’s a discussion that’s going to follow Torres into a very fluid offseason.

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