The Staten Island Yankees early record of 3-6 does not indicate a strong start to the season. They have had the lowest hit total of any team in the New-York Penn League (51) with 17 of those hits being extra-bases (13 doubles and four home runs). Plus, they have hit .183 as a team and scored 24 runs (four of them coming in last night’s win).
The offensive numbers have left a lot to be desired early and here is what hitting coach Ken Joyce had to say about the team’s slow start at the plate after Friday’s 2-0 loss to Aberdeen:
“Well, I think part of it has to do with the fact that we have a lot of young players playing at this level for the first time against some older pitching. So, the approach they are facing is something they are not used to. The Gulf Coast League, you see a lot more fastballs than you are going to see here. Guys here have a tendency to pitch backwards. They are coming off the fastball and we are looking for other things besides the fastball. We need to get back to that. That’s what our strength is.”
Now, that does not mean there haven’t been players that have stood out on Lino Diaz’s squad. One player that has been a key for the Baby Bombers’ offense is outfielder Frederick Cuevas. The 20-year-old is hitting .348 with a pair of solo home runs and he has drawn eight free passes, which is three more than any other player on the roster. Here is what Diaz had to say about him after Thursday’s game against the Aberdeen Ironbirds:
“Cuevas is a gamer. He’s a guy that goes out there and gives you the best he has. If you allow him, he will hurt you. He’s one of those guys that you have to have in the lineup. At anytime, when you least expect it, he will hurt you.”
Joyce added about Cuevas’ approach that “he’s been consistent with it. He’s hunting the fastball and doing damage with the fastball and not worried about the offspeed. That’s why he’s getting his walks. He’s a guy that has a little more experience and he’s a professional hitter doing his job for us.”
Meanwhile, a player on the Staten Island Yankees squad that didn’t start the year here is making his veteran impact on the club. That would be catcher Ryan Lidge. New York’s 20th Round pick in 2017 has played 26 games for four different affiliates and he has been a key to helping some of the younger pitchers.
“He’s been good for the team. Anytime you have a guy like that that is open to other players to talk to and everything, it is a great thing,” said Diaz.
As for Lidge, he told me about what has been the toughest part of going back-and-forth between the different clubs:
“Probably just keeping a level head and staying consistent, replied Lidge. “Just because I am playing in Trenton or playing in Staten Island, the only thing that changes is my teammates and the venue I am playing at. When it comes down to it, baseball is the same game. Bases are 90 feet away, the pitcher is 60 feet, 6 inches away and guys throw hard all over the minor leagues. Trying to stay consistent is definitely a challenge and it’s something I am trying to take a lot of pride in.
Lidge’s bat has been a key towards the bottom of the order as he has hit seventh in the lineup in four out of the five games. The 23-year-old switch-hitting catcher is 9-for-23 at the plate with a home run and five RBIs. As Joyce talked about after the game on Friday, he has brought a professional mindset to the team:
“I am proud of the fact that he comes to work every day and he’s the same guy. He’s consistent with his work and approach. He’s done a real nice job of trying to help the younger hitters understand how to go about it at this level. It’s nice to have a guy like Ryan Lidge that can help them out.”
Before the recent homestand, the Yankees had their first road series of the season as they headed up to Massachusetts to take on the Lowell Spinners. They lost two out of three games in the series, but Diaz thinks that the offense is close to heating up:
“It was very competitive. The team is still getting situated with their routine. We are in the early stages, but I do like our team. I like the possibilities of where we can get. I think we have good talent and it is just a matter of getting our routines down. I do believe we will get going. It will just take a couple of days until we get there.”
One other player to mention is shortstop Eduardo Torrealba. The shortstop is squaring up the ball and making a lot of loud contact in the early stages of the year. He only has five hits, but he has two doubles and two RBIs in 31 at-bats.
“He’s a guy that is consistent with his approach and swing. He’s staying on the fastball for the most part. The more he stays on the fastball, the better the hitter he is,” said Joyce.
Finally, I asked Joyce what is the first thing he tells a new hitter when he first enters the organization like Kyle Gray and Alex Junior did on Friday. Here is what he said:
“When they first get here, there is a 30-day rule that we are not going to touch them. We are going to let them perform and let them do their thing. My job as a hitting coach is twofold. One is to put them in the best possible position I can put them in to take a swing knowing I will never take that swing for them. The other thing is to make them believe they are the best hitter to ever play the game.”