For more than a year now, the sight of Miguel Andujar at third base and Gleyber Torres at second was something that existed only in the Yankees’ imagination. Brian Cashman teased everyone in the weeks leading up to spring training by suggesting it was possible, then cruelly discarded that dream by trading for Brandon Drury and signing Neil Walker.
Basically, Cashman was stalling, and for a team with World Series aspirations, it made sense for the general manager to go with the proven performers rather than risk moving up the hands on the development clock for his homegrown prospects.
That was the idea, anyway. But those best-laid plans quickly unraveled during the first three weeks of this season, leaving the Yankees with a Sunday lineup that finally included both Andujar and Torres, with the latter making his major-league debut against the Blue Jays.
Despite Aaron Boone’s insistence that Torres indeed is ready, and his numbers at Triple-A Scranton backing up that claim, this wasn’t how the Yankees drew it up. In Torres, they were reaching for something — not a savior, of course, but perhaps a spark. This was as much about the scuffling Yankees being ready for Torres as him for them.
“No question,” Boone said. “He’s in a good place to help our club.”
So maybe Torres, 21, didn’t provide much of a tangible boost Sunday, going 0-for-4 and stranding seven baserunners, but the Yankees didn’t need him to topple the Blue Jays, 5-1, and take the weekend series. Instead, they leaned on Andujar, who went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles, giving him six straight games with at least one extra-base hit.
Torres was so amped up in his first at-bat against Jaime Garcia that the former Yankee could have rolled the ball to the plate and the jumpy rookie would have swung at it. He whiffed on five pitches, but that hardly was surprising. After a whirlwind 20 hours or so that included little sleep and a rousing welcome from the matinee crowd of 43,628 — many of them standing — that level of adrenaline had to be tough to bottle up.
“I enjoyed the moment,” Torres said.
That’s fine for now. We’re expecting the hits to come later. Not every youngster can have a debut like Andujar did last June 28, when he had three hits and four RBIs in a 12-3 rout of the White Sox. That game was in Chicago — at a mostly empty building called Guaranteed Rate Field — so the less stirring atmosphere might have taken some of the edge off.
“Of course I was nervous,” Andujar recalled through his interpreter. “There were all kinds of emotions. But once you get that first hit, it gives you confidence.”
By now, Andujar has swatted away any lingering insecurities, just as he figures Torres will do in the days ahead. After Sunday’s win, Didi Gregorius smiled as he described how Andujar came up to him that morning and said he felt great going into the game. That’s some serious moxie for a 23-year-old with 17 major-league games on his resume, but Andujar evidently knew what he was talking about.
In the second inning, Andujar pulled a curveball to leftfield for a double that appeared to perfectly set up his buddy Torres for the storybook debut. The applause for Andujar transitioned nicely to the standing O for Torres’ intro, but with runners on second and third and one out, Torres struck out. The hero’s turn would have to wait.
The sixth inning unfolded in similar fashion, with Andujar crushing a 1-and-2 slider from Jays reliever Seung Hwan Oh for a bullet RBI double to left-centerfield. But with runners on second and third and one out, Torres fouled out.
The Yankees have insisted that Andujar would grow into a lethal offensive weapon, and an unlikely door opened on April 1 when outfielder Billy McKinney crashed into the wall in Toronto. Up came Andujar, who followed with a 3-for-28 (.107) start that seemed to prep him for a return trip on the Scranton shuttle.
Then Drury went on the disabled list with migraine issues. Andujar has parlayed that regular playing time into a six-game surge in which he’s batted .542 (13-for-24) with seven doubles, a triple and two homers.
“Immeasurable” is how Boone described Andujar’s confidence boost.
As for Torres, his big moments will come, too. A good night’s sleep, and a chance for everyone to calm down — himself included — should work wonders when Torres is back out there Monday night against the Twins.