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A Speedy Ascension For Yanks' Mateo

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Jorge Mateo (Photo by Cliff Welch) Jorge Mateo (Photo by Cliff Welch)[/caption]

TAMPAShortstop Jorge Mateo was among a group of Yankees minor leaguers who, in 2015, appeared in a few games as extra players in big league spring training games.

Because of split-squad games, though, big league manager Joe Girardi didn’t get to see the organization’s No. 1 prospect last spring.

That changed considerably this spring, because New York invited Mateo to big league camp. He turned heads from the start.


"He is exciting, and I like the way he has gone about his business,” Girardi said of the 20-year-old Mateo, who homered off the scoreboard in left-center field at Steinbrenner Field in the first week of exhibition games.

"He has not played like he is in awe of anything or intimidated or nervous. He just goes out and plays. That is a really good sign that he is maturing and understands what he needs to do when he goes out there every day.’’

Despite having slick-fielding, 26-year-old Didi Gregorius entrenched at shortstop in the big leagues, the Yankees don’t have immediate plans to move Mateo off his natural position.

The rest of the infield appears set, too. Second baseman Starlin Castro is signed through 2019 and third baseman Chase Headley through 2018.

Furthermore, Mateo committed 30 errors in 99 games last year (.929 fielding percentage) and might not be the most sure-handed.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, Mateo batted .278/.345/.392 in 117 games last year at low Class A Charleston and high Class A Tampa. He stole a minor league-best 82 bases in 99 attempts.

Yankees third-base coach Joe Espada recalled seeing Mateo two years ago when Mateo was in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and he was a scout.

"What caught my eye was he stole home on a throw from the catcher to the pitcher,” Espada said. "That showed me he had speed and instincts.”

YANKEE DOODLES

Austin Romine, who is out of minor league options, muscled his way into the backup-catcher picture with a strong spring start. General manager Brian Cashman previously indicated that prospect Gary Sanchez was the frontrunner.

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Baseball America Prospect Report -- October 23, 2019

Lewin Diaz, Edmundo Sosa and Jorge Mateo stand out among Dominican League and Mexican Pacific League prospects.

• Righthander Luis Cessa, an offseason trade acquisition from the Tigers, could work his way into a big league bullpen role. He began the spring with four scoreless innings.

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