Gleyber Torres shows encouraging sign in Yankees’ injury-free spring opener

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TAMPA — Just two batters into the exhibition season, Toronto’s Marcus Semien hit a ball to shallow right field.

Aaron Judge raced in and briefly looked like he was going to attempt a diving catch and most of the 2,637 fans at George M. Steinbrenner Field likely cringed at the thought of the right fielder crashing to the turf so soon into spring training, given his injury history.

Judge, though, smartly pulled up and let the ball fall in for a single and the Yankees survived their first game of the spring — seemingly — with no health issues.

While that might seem like a simple task, it hasn’t been for the Yankees in recent years. And so much of what they want to do this season is tied to keeping players like Judge on the field.

So consider Sunday’s 6-4 loss in seven innings to the Blue Jays a success.

Because if the Yankees end up going where they intend, they’ve got a long way to get there.

It’s why Judge — who missed all of last spring training with a fractured rib suffered the previous season on a similar play to the one he didn’t attempt Sunday — isn’t in a rush to get too much game action.

Yankees
Gleyber Torres makes a play in the hole at shortstop.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Not only did Judge and his teammates stay upright, there were some other promising signs.

Perhaps the most notable came in the top of the second, when Gleyber Torres raced to his left and made a nice scoop of a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. grounder up the middle, turning it into an easy out.

Whether that was just a solid play from an inconsistent shortstop or a sign that Torres has indeed, as the Yankees hope, started to turn the corner defensively, won’t be known until the games start to count.

“During the offseason, I prepared myself to be more consistent on defense,’’ Torres said. “I try not to worry about my defense from last year. It’s happened already. I’m focused now on being ready for each pitch. I worked so hard during the offseason and the couple of days of spring training to try to show confidence and play the game.”

Torres was another key Yankee who battled injuries last season, as did Giancarlo Stanton.

So Aaron Boone said Stanton — along with the recently signed Brett Gardner — won’t play in a game until Wednesday night against the Blue Jays in Tampa, skipping Monday against the Tigers and Tuesday’s trip to Sarasota to visit the Orioles.

Judge, though, said he plans on playing in Sarasota on Tuesday, as well as Wednesday night, as the Yankees come up with a schedule for the 28-year-old.

“We’ll slowly ease into it,’’ said Judge, who intends to play every day in nine-inning games in the final week of spring training.

“We’re taking it slow right now,’’ Judge said.

Like Torres, Judge focused this offseason on not just improving his production on the field, but also his ability to stay on it.

“There were a couple things with my swing I wanted to change and be a little more consistent,’’ Judge said. “And get my body ready for 162 [games] and the postseason. That’s a goal of mine.”

Avoiding injury has been an issue with Judge and he’s hoping to eliminate that part of his résumé.

“Consistency is the biggest thing,’’ Judge said. “And showing up every day.”

Part of showing up for Judge has been his interaction with fans — especially young ones — by playing catch with them and signing autographs.

Both are no-nos in the COVID world, but Judge did what he could Sunday, by tossing a ball into the right-field stands after warming up.

“It’s tough,’’ Judge said of not being able to engage with fans as much. “I guess I just have to let my play be the connection. Put on a show. I think that’s all you can really do. … You’ve got to be old school and put on show for the fans.”

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