CLEARWATER, Fla. — The result was an out, but Gleyber Torres’ at-bat in the top of the third inning of Friday’s game against the Phillies showed some of what’s different about the infielder this spring.
After working the count to full, Torres turned on a 94-mph sinker from Braeden Ogle and ripped it to third, where Alec Bohm caught the 106-mph shot.
Torres has tried to get back to what made him one of the most promising young players — and best players, period — in the game in 2018 and 2019 after looking like a different hitter the past two seasons.
New hitting coach Dillon Lawson, who started working with Torres before the start of the MLB lockout in December — thanks to Torres living in Tampa — said the main focus of their work has been looking at what Torres did with his lower body at the plate when he was exceeding expectations with his power, compared to what he did in 2020 and 2021, when he was often left off-balance at the end of swings.
“I think he’s back to where he was a few years ago, when he was using the whole field,” Lawson said before the Yankees lost to the Phillies, 6-5, at BayCare Ballpark. “He’s done fine the past couple years going to right-center, but the way he’s going to right-center right now is with authority. And it’s not in a way that limits him to the pull side. That’s stuff from ’18 and ’19.”
And not like ’20 and ’21.
“I’m trying to be more in control with that,” Torres said. “Last year, I hit too many ground balls trying to pull the ball. Now I want to stay in control and hit the ball right up the middle, the same as I did before.”
It’s all been part of an eventful spring for Torres, who is back at second base, with DJ LeMahieu set to bounce around the infield this season. Torres and his wife also welcomed their first child this week and he’s making scouts believe the 25-year-old is going to be able to move past the disappointment of the past two seasons.
“He was all over the place offensively last year,” one AL scout said. “It started in ’20 with all the COVID stuff and then he got off his game. And then they moved him to [shortstop] and he was even more lost. It’s early, but he looks good now.”
Lawson was confident when they began working that the readjustment wouldn’t be difficult for Torres.
“It’s about the way he loads his lower body,’’ Lawson said. “He’s always been aggressive and a lot of people can’t do it the way he does it. But he can and he’s embracing that. He’s not running away from what makes him good.”
That movement often messed with Torres’ timing last season, leading to weak ground balls and pop ups.
This spring, he has been more on time.
“The way he loads his lower half, it’s a bigger move than most other guys, but it works for him,” Lawson said. “It allows him to stay on balls to the opposite field and stay behind it. And when he needs to drop the head to the pull side, he can get it in the air.”
If all goes well, Torres will resemble the hitter he was when he first came up.
“The best part about it is he doesn’t have to recreate anything or be someone he’s never been before,” Lawson said. “He’s done it for a long time and for the majority career. It’s just getting back to that.”