MOOSIC — Gleyber Torres admitted after his April 7 game that he would have liked to do something more than ground into a fielder’s choice in his final at-bat.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders were losing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth with one out when Torres stepped up to the plate. Runners were on second and third and the infielder was 1-for-4 with a home run in his previous four at-bats.
But after falling behind and into a 1-2 count, Torres never really bounced back.
He let a ball from Syracuse reliever Austin Adams sail past him to even the count. Even though Torres earned one more pitch, he wasn’t able to do anything with it. He hit a grounder to the third baseman, RailRiders left fielder Zack Zehner, who was standing on third, wasn’t able to score and when Cody Asche stepped to the plate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre still had runners on second and third but instead had two outs.
So in between Torres’ last at-bat from the April 7 loss and his first at-bat the following day, he studied that fielder’s choice, vowing to not make the same mistake again. He didn’t. He went 4-for-5 with a stolen base and two RBI in the 4-3 win over the Chiefs.
“The pitcher throw me everything yesterday, the first day and today,” Torres said after the April 8 win. “Last night I saw a couple videos of my last at-bat and I keep working. I came in today, stayed focused and do my job and tried to put the ball in (play) — take my pitches and try to put the ball in (play).”
His 4-for-5 afternoon was just one of what has seemed like frequent examples of Torres’ blossoming baseball IQ this season.
The New York Yankees top prospect has always been a student of the game, but in his limited time in Triple-A this is the first time he’s shown that he’s often one step ahead of his counterpart while playing at this level. Torres looked a little lost in his first two games, striking out an uncharacteristic three times in the season opener but finished the homestand strong.
The 21-year-old brought a .333 average with him when he got on the bus for Charlotte Wednesday night.
“Opening Day was cold, (April 7) was too cold and I think that the body is (getting used to it) right now,” Torres said. “I tried to make one pitch, didn’t put too much (pressure) on myself and tried to put the ball in (play) and help my team.”
But the plate isn’t the only place where Torres’ smarts have paid dividends.
Torres took a chance Monday night while standing on third base in a game against Lehigh Valley.
RailRiders catcher Kyle Higashioka sent a pop-up to shallow center field, and with just one out and the game in the balance, Torres decided to dart home. RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said after the game that the decision to attempt to score was all on his own. And it worked.
Not only was his advancement on the sac fly a correct risk, but he stretched a double into a triple earlier in the April 8 game that caught his manager’s eye.
“I think he’s maturing right along, and becoming a big-league guy, obviously,” Mitchell said. “Even his base running, I’ve noticed it in his base running, you know? For him to go all the way to third on a base hit, the a ball hit to left-center, was impressive to me, and he made it by a lot, and he was doing it on his own, which they should be able to do. A lot of guys look to me coming around second, but I looked at him and he was judging on his own and did a great job.
“Then, obviously, the sac fly — I think that’s something that I’ve seen him mature in because there was a little bit last year in Double-A where he was kind of just running and the decisions that he was making were always great and I was always worried about him sliding in getting hurt because he was trying to avoid the tag all the time. I think he’s definitely taking it seriously and learning how to do all parts of the game instead of just the hitting part.”
The Athletic senior writer Ken Rosenthal tweeted on Thursday that the Yankees could call Torres up on Wednesday without losing an extra year of control.
Wednesday marks the 20th day of the league year. With Torres on New York’s 40-man roster, teams must wait 20 days before calling him up to ensure an extra year of control, making Wednesday the sweet spot for the RailRiders infielder to get the call.
While Mitchell admits Torres may not be ready quite yet, he’s still do well and figure it on along the way.
“Oh, he is,” Mitchell said when asked if he thought Torres was ready to play in the majors. “I think if they called him up, he could definitely compete up there right now. There’s just certain things for him to become the player that he wants to become and can become. There are things he needs to refine and get better at, but it’s not about just hitting when you go up there. It’s about every aspect of the game that you need to try to master, and he’s trying and he’s doing a great job — he’s moving along.
“He’s not far, obviously. If they called him up, I think he’d be fine. He’d probably learn on the fly is what he’d be doing.”