Shortstop on improvement: 'It was just the experience. That's all I needed.'
By Matthew Martell
NEW YORK -- Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has seen a steady improvement at the plate in his two-plus seasons in pinstripes, with his most significant strides coming against left-handed pitching.
The 27-year-old touched Royals southpaw Jason Vargas up for two hits, including a two-run blast to the second deck in right field, in New York's 4-2 win over Kansas City on Monday night at Yankee Stadium. He finished the game 2-for-3 and raised his average to .333.
It's remarkable how far Gregorius has come since he followed Derek Jeter as the Yankees' shortstop after the 2014 season. At the time, there was some speculation that the left-handed-hitting Gregorius might be relegated to a platoon role with the light-hitting, all-glove righty Brendan Ryan.
Manager Joe Girardi said, however, that he never thought of Gregorius as a platoon player.
"You can get labeled sometimes early in your career that you don't necessarily hit left-handers, and we just kept running him out there against left-handers," Girardi said. "We always thought if you're going to give him a day off, let's do it against a left-hander. But, he's our everyday shortstop."
This season, Gregorius is hitting .385 (10-for-26) off left-handers. Since the start of 2016, he has hit .333 (58-for-174) against lefties with 11 doubles, five homers and 29 RBIs.
In 2015, his first season in the Bronx, Gregorius finished with a .247 average (36-for-146) with seven extra-base hits, including one home run, which was his first homer off a lefty in the Major Leagues.
"I thought Didi grew up a lot, figured out who he was as a hitter last year," Girardi said. "I think just getting those opportunities at this level really helped him out."
Through the down moments of the 2015 season, Gregorius said he never changed his approach when facing southpaws. Rather, the success came with more experience and an unwavering comfort level.
"I was always comfortable," Gregorius said. "It was just the experience. That's all I needed."
Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.