CLEVELAND -- Didi Gregorius says that "you can definitely see a big difference" in his play at shortstop compared to the beginning of the season, when the first-year Yankee appeared tentative and unsure at times. Lately, his athleticism has taken on even more of a shine.
Gregorius made a pair of dazzling defensive plays in the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field on Wednesday, and he rated a sixth-inning rifle from the outfield grass as his most challenging, dodging a broken bat to record the out on a Mike Aviles chopper.
"I always play with confidence," Gregorius said. "I never lost my confidence since Day 1. That's something that I will never lose. For me, it's just improvements, trying to make improvements in everything. That's one thing that's going to count."
Gregorius' first sharp play of the night came in the second inning, a play in which he dove up the middle to smother a Giovanny Urshela grounder, whirled and fired on one hop to Mark Teixeira at first base. Urshela was originally ruled safe, but after the Yankees challenged, the call was overturned on replay.
He bested it in the sixth, when CC Sabathia shattered Aviles' bat, sending shrapnel toward the left side of the infield. Third baseman Chase Headley broke toward the ball but Gregorius had a better angle, grabbing a strange bounce and throwing a one-hop rocket off his back foot to nail Aviles at first.
"That was probably the hardest, because the bat is coming, Chase is running, CC's got his hand up," Gregorius said. "It was a lot going on, but the ball is the only thing you can focus on right there. I got the out."
"Didi has been great, not only for me but for this team, period," Sabathia said. "The way he's been playing defense, swinging the bat, it's been awesome. Hopefully he can keep it up and give us that push we need the rest of the year."
Gregorius was hitless in four at-bats on Wednesday, but he has 11 hits in his last 34 at-bats (.323) and is batting .297 in 63 games since May 29.
"Didi has played really well," manager Joe Girardi said. "I can't say enough about the way he's played, the way he's swung the bat, the way he's played defensively. They turned some outstanding double plays today behind CC. I think he's improved every month, and that's a great sign for us."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.