The Yankees had an off day on Wednesday, but a significant part of their future was back on the field in Gwinnett, Ga., where Gleyber Torres returned to action after dealing with some back tightness.
The 21-year-old picked up where he left off with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and a sacrifice fly.
How much more time the Yankees determine Torres needs in the minors remains to be seen, but whenever he does get to The Bronx, his manager for parts of each of the last three seasons, Bobby Mitchell, is confident he’ll make an impact.
“Oh, yeah, for sure,’’ the SWB manager said this week by phone when asked if the team’s top prospect will be worth the wait. “He’ll be around a long time and hopefully he’s a star up there. … You see his ability and potential are off the charts. Once he’s up there and adjusts, he’ll stay there.”
For Mitchell, it’s only a matter of when Torres will make his presence felt.
“We want to make sure he’s ready,’’ Mitchell said. “Right now, it’s all about winning up there. It’s not about development. And I think he will help.”
Torres has made his last eight starts at third base. A natural shortstop, Torres has played primarily second and third, since he’s blocked at short by Didi Gregorius.
With Greg Bird rehabbing from ankle surgery and Brandon Drury dealing with migraines and blurred vision, the Yankees’ makeshift infield typically consists of Tyler Austin at first, Neil Walker at second, Miguel Andujar at third and Gregorius at short — with Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes coming off the bench.
Andujar, after a slow start following his call-up to replace Drury, has hit well recently, slugging multiple extra-base hits in three straight games.
Austin could have his hearing regarding his appeal for the five-game suspension he received for charging the mound last week in Boston as soon as Thursday. And Walker and Wade have been awful at the plate.
Because of service-time rules, if Torres makes his MLB debut Thursday, the Yankees wouldn’t lose a year of control, but it’s unclear if they’ll summon him just yet.
Meanwhile, Torres has responded well after being optioned to SWB in March after coming to spring training with a shot to win the starting second-base job. He struggled in the spring, showing the effects of missing the second half of last season and winter ball while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow following a hook-slide into the plate while with SWB.
“He had to deal with the frustration a little bit,” Mitchell said. “There’s always disappointment. That’s normal. He was so rusty from not having played much last year, and we tried to make it clear that he just needed playing time. He’s bought into it.”
The next challenge has been dealing with waiting.
“Everyone has been talking about him, creating these expectations,” Mitchell said. “He reads it. I think he has a really great shot and he’s handling the attention fine. Obviously, there’s a lot of anticipation for him and he feels it, too.”
It hasn’t affected him at the plate. After going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first game, Torres is 16-for-39 with six runs, three doubles, a homer and 11 RBIs to go along with four walks and six strikeouts.
“He’s getting pitched to very differently now with the hype and the way he’s been hitting,’’ Mitchell said. “It’s good for him, because he’s seeing more offspeed pitches. He already crushes fastballs, so this will help him make the adjustment to becoming a more complete hitter.”
Mitchell also praised Torres’ recall, noting his ability to remember how pitchers have attacked him in previous at-bats.
The main challenge, according to Mitchell, has been at third, where Torres is still picking up the nuances, like bunt plays and cutoffs.
“He’s learning on the fly, but he’s a good student of the game and grasps things fast,’’ Mitchell said.
As for baserunning, Torres has made improvements there, as well — although he was thrown out Wednesday after rounding too far past third. But he won’t be diving into home again.
“I guarantee you he won’t do that,” Mitchell said. “He scored sliding with his hands on his chest the other day. He’s on his way. It’s just a matter of time.”
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