Gleyber Torres was the first Yankees player on the field Wednesday for early batting practice and there’s good reason for it.
The shortstop headed into that night’s game against the Royals in a 1-for-24 slide, with three walks, 10 strikeouts and no extra-base hits in his previous seven games.
Torres was one of the main culprits for Tuesday’s loss to Kansas City, striking out four times and leaving three runners on base. The Yankees left a total of 13 runners on base in the game.
“He’s one of the guys we have to have in our lineup that has to be clicking,’’ hitting coach Marcus Thames said. “I told him [Tuesday] before the game, we’ve got to get him back to the point where he’s having fun. It’s hard when you’re struggling. I see him getting back to that.”
Torres’ drop in production from 2019 to now has been drastic. And aside from a few stretches since then, Torres has looked like a vastly different hitter than he was when he hit 24 home runs as a rookie in 2018 and followed that up with 38 homers in 2019.
Over the past two years, he had just six homers in 366 at-bats through Tuesday. This season, his exit velocity is a career-low 85.9 mph (compared to an overall mark of 88.4 mph).
Both Thames and Aaron Boone pointed to Torres’ lower half as the problem — at least for his recent issues.
“We’ve got to get him back into the big part of the field,’’ Thames said. “His lower half is not as strong as when he’s going well. We’ve got to get him back to that point.”
Torres finished 2019 with a slugging percentage of .535, which trailed just Aaron Judge on the team. This season, it has plummeted to .326, ahead of only Clint Frazier and Brett Gardner among Yankees regulars.
“Through the last week he’s struggled, it’s been more mechanic-based,’’ Boone said. “He’s been a little off-balanced without that power. He’s strong with a thick lower half and it hasn’t been working as well for him. We’ve got to get that unlocked. Eventually we’ll see that power we know he has.”
That power has been hard to find, both during the shortened 2020 season and in 2021.
Torres came on strong in the latter part of last year after admittedly showing up to the delayed start of the regular season in less than peak condition. He battled COVID-19 in the offseason and was the lone Yankees player to come down with COVID-19 during the team’s recent outbreak.
He has shown bursts of offense, but the explosive power that previously set Torres apart has been invisible.
Torres’ glove at shortstop always has been a question mark, so without an above-average bat, he becomes a liability instead of a budding star.
Thames remains confident Torres can return to the All-Star form he showed earlier in his career.
“I know him,’’ Thames said. “I know how talented he is and I know it’s gonna happen.”