Gleyber Torres’ placement on the COVID-19 list was particularly frustrating for the Yankees after the shortstop was finally showing signs of pulling himself out of a deep early-season slump.
In his last 12 games before testing positive for COVID, along with eight other members of the team’s traveling party, many of them coaches, Torres was batting .277 with 13 hits and a home run. It seemed like the worst time to be placed into quarantine after the two-time All-Star was finally finding his stride at the plate.
But after making his return eight days later, Torres appears to be seeing the ball even better than when his season was abruptly paused. In his four games since coming out of quarantine in Tampa, Torres has eight hits in 13 at-bats with a home run and six RBI.
Torres was the bulk of the Yankee offense on Saturday, going 3-for-4 at the plate with four RBI and two runs scored, less than 24 hours after delivering a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth. After starting off the year batting .208 with a .548 OPS in his first 21 games, Torres is starting to look like his 2019 self.
“The first couple weeks of the season was a little bit of a struggle,” Torres said. “Those moments, I feel like when we struggle and we don’t do really well, we think too much.”
Torres has committed to simplifying his approach at the plate, but to get there, he had to put in a heavier workload in between at-bats, leaning on his hitting coaches to help him get back to being one of the most prolific and balanced bats in a dynamic Yankee lineup.
“I had a lot of conversations with PJ and Marcus every day, getting extra work and things like that helped to remind me of little things to do to make good adjustments at the plate,” Torres said. “I’ve just been trying to follow that and be more consistent with my routine before the game, and every at-bat, try to do the same thing. Just get a good plan when I’m going to the plate and to be focused in every situation.”
His work behind the scenes has clearly paid off. His chase percentage in April was over 20 percent, but so far in May, that number is down to 11.8 percent. Much more disciplined, Torres has been pouncing on mistakes after working good counts, and most importantly for the Yankees, they’ve come in run-scoring situations, which has been a big need for a depleted lineup still trying to find its way.
“When he’s getting a pitch, he’s putting it in play now with authority,” Aaron Boone said. “I feel like there were times in and out of that first month or so when he was in good counts or even when he got off a good swing, it was a foul ball. I feel like most of the year he’s done a pretty good job controlling the zone and making good swing decisions, but now we’re starting to see the extra-base hits come along, and that’s a product of getting into some counts, and when you do, making sure you stick it. In this series it’s come in some big spots with runners out there.”
Torres is a major piece to the Yankee offense, proving himself as one of the team’s best postseason bats in the last two years, when opposing pitching is tougher to tackle than ever. As the Yankees continue their climb toward first place in the AL East, Torres’ return to 2019 and late 2020 form will be crucial. His teammates feel like he’s already back to that level.
“Missing a week and a half like he did, it’s not easy just to get thrown right back in there,” Brett Gardner said. “I know the game can really seem to move pretty fast when you’re away from it for a little awhile. So he’s looked really good at the plate and really confident in the field. It seems like he hasn’t skipped a beat. It’s great to have him back in the lineup and feeling well.”
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1