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Yankees’ Gio Urshela wouldn’t mind playing shortstop full time

The Yankees’ sudden end to their season has opened up new roles for Gio Urshela. And speaking of new roles, the infielder didn’t mind the defensive shift he took on during the 2021 season’s final turn.

“I played my entire minor leagues [and major leagues] at third base. Then, moving to shortstop, I kind of liked it,” Urshela said Tuesday at Community School 55 in The Bronx, where he distributed bobblehead dolls of himself, manufactured by the hand sanitizer company H2One, to about 100 fourth- and fifth-graders “I really enjoyed playing shortstop because you get more involved in the game. Every play, you’re going to be involved. Third base, I just wait for the [ball] and that’s it. You don’t move that much. It feels a little bit different, like you get more tired probably after a game [at shortstop].

“You’ve got to move … but at the same time, I like it.”

Nevertheless, the easygoing Urshela said he’d be fine playing anywhere for the 2022 Yankees, whose infield alignment ranks as one of many areas that require addressing this offseason. On Sept. 13, in an acknowledgment that the call to play Gleyber Torres at shortstop had failed, the Yankees shifted Torres to second base, DJ LeMahieu from second to third base and Urshela from third base to shortstop. Urshela — who turned 30 on Monday, prompting school principal Luis Torres to lead the students in a round of “Happy Birthday” — totaled zero outs above average in 30 games at shortstop, better than he fared at the hot corner (-5 OAA, as per Baseball Savant).

Gio Urshela headlined an event at Community School 55 in The Bronx, where he distributed bobblehead dolls of himself to students.
Robert Sabo

While LeMahieu, Torres and Urshela are all under team control next season, the Yankees nevertheless surely will engage on a robust free-agent class of shortstops that features Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Trevor Story.

Whether Aaron Boone will lead the Yankees players next season remains in question, as the manager finished his contract having led the club to four straight playoff appearances and no World Series appearances. Boone appears more likely than not to return, and that would please Urshela, who slashed .267/.301/.419 as he battled multiple injuries as well as a breakthrough case of COVID.

“Boone is a very good manager, a really good person,” Urshela said. “I really love Boone, the way he is, how he managed the team. I hope we can see him back.”

Urshela credited the confidence Boone displayed in him for his 2019 breakout.

With the Yankees eliminated by the Red Sox in the American League wild-card game, Urshela said he will return to his Florida home shortly, although not before fulfilling his promise to serve as an ambassador for Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey and visit some patients there.

Gio Urshela said he would be open to playing shortstop full time next season if the Yankees decide to go that route.
Gio Urshela said he would be open to playing shortstop full time next season if the Yankees decide to go that route.
AP

He’ll also return to the area on Nov. 17 to be honored by the Cristian Rivera Foundation at Capitale for his service. Among his community allies on site Tuesday were H2One CEO Alfred Zaccagnino; David Jurist, who founded (with his wife Alice) an Institute for Research at Hackensack University Medical Center; Cristian Rivera Foundation founder John Rivera; former Yankees batboy Luis Castillo; and Yankees community consultant Ray Negron, who thanked team president Randy Levine for his support of such endeavors.

“It’s a blessing to be here and see the [excitement] of all those kids,” Urshela said. “I’ll keep working very hard to see more moments like this.”

And of course he’ll get back to work on the field, too, once he fully heals from his highlight-film catch in Game 162, running into the Rays’ dugout, that made it “really tough to play” in the American League wild-card game, he acknowledged. He said he felt “much better” on Tuesday, a week later, the bruise on his left thigh having diminished.

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