Didi Gregorius Not About to Give Up Job Easily

NEW YORK—Yankees fans are buzzing with anticipation over Gleyber Torres, BA’s No. 2 prospect who was just promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre over the weekend.

As if on cue, Didi Gregorius delivered a reminder he isn’t going to give up the Yankees’ shortstop job easily.

Gregorius hit the go-ahead, two-run homer to lift the Yankees to a 4-2 win over the Royals on Monday night, raising his batting average to .333 and his OPS to .809 in 22 games since coming off the disabled list with a strained right shoulder muscle.

“I feel really good,” Gregorius said. “I’m just trying to stick to the same approach, try to see the ball and hit line drives line-to-line. Confidence never goes away. If it goes away you never feel comfortable playing. That’s one thing I think I have for sure.”

Gregorius has prospect pedigree himself. He was a four-time Top 30 prospect in the Reds organization and was BA’s No. 80 prospect going into his rookie season in 2013. Long regarded as a defense-first shortstop, Gregorius reached new offensive heights last year when he hit .276 with 32 doubles, 20 home runs and 70 RBIs. This year, since returning from his injury suffered while playing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, Gregorius is on pace for new career-highs in average, on-base percentage (.365) and OPS.

“I think he’s just kind of picked up where he left off last year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He had a great WBC, it was unfortunate that he got hurt . . . I thought Didi grew up a lot, figured out who he was as a hitter last year and swung the bat really well.”

One main area the lefthanded-hitting Gregorius has elevated his game is against same-side pitchers. Gregorius hit just one home run off lefthanded pitchers in his first four seasons from 2012-15. Since 2016, Gregorius has hit .333 (58-for-174) with 11 doubles, five home runs and 30 RBIs against southpaws, including his 2-for-3 night against Royals lefthander Jason Vargas on Monday.

“I think it’s just getting more at-bats (against lefties),” Gregorius said. “Getting to know what they’re going to try with you and stick(ing) to a plan whenever you go up there. Try to stay consistent with that and trust it. That’s the thing been helping out so far.”

Gregorius’ fourth-inning shot into the right field bleachers gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead, which they never relinquished. Brett Gardner started the scoring for New York with his ninth home run in his past 21 games, Chris Carter added a solo shot in the seventh for insurance, and Dellin Betances closed it out for his third save.

Michael Pineda (5-2) earned the win with 6.2 innings, six hits and two runs allowed, one walk and six strikeouts. It was his fourth consecutive start of at least six innings and three earned runs allowed or less.

Jorge Bonifacio homered and Alcides Escobar hit an RBI double in the third inning to supply the scoring for Kansas City. Vargas (5-3) gave up three runs in six innings to take the loss.

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