Anthony Volpe’s hot spring start continues, Aaron Hicks homers in Yankees’ Grapefruit League loss to Rays
Anthony Volpe again stood out from the pack in the early days of the shortstop competition at Yankees camp on Saturday afternoon.
The 21-year-old finished 1-for-4 with a double during the Yankees’ 14-10 loss to the Rays at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa — including a 100 mph lineout in his fourth at-bat — and is now 5-for-15 (.333) with a homer, two doubles and two stolen bases. Oswald Peraza was also featured in Saturday’s lineup as the second baseman. He went 0-for-3 and is now 2-for-9 (.222) with no extra-base hits early on.
The battle for shortstop — that still includes the incumbent Isiah Kiner-Falefa who is 1-for-6 on the spring — does not have a due date. Manager Aaron Boone said in his mid-game interview with the YES Network that there’s no deadline or set timeframe for making the decision on who will be manning the all-important six-hole.
The skipper mentioned earlier in the spring that the shortstop decision will not be decided strictly off of who outperforms who in Grapefruit League play. However, Boone has raved about the intangibles of MLB pipeline’s No. 5 prospect.
“He’s strong,” Boone said on Thursday. “Great lower half, stays in the ground really well. You see him sit down in his legs, and he doesn’t get cheated. You can see him drive the ball out the other way. He’s not tall, but he’s thick and pretty stout...”
“I’ve got high expectations, and he’s come in and gotten after it,” Boone said. “It’s in line with the reputation he’s earned in our organization. He works hard.
“You can tell he loves the game. I think of our captain, Aaron Judge — one of the things that stands out is he loves the game. So you get into the little things, watching and looking to find a little bit of an edge — he’s always doing that.”
There is some skepticism regarding just how real Volpe’s chances are — despite GM Brian Cashman reportedly telling the shortstop over the phone during the offseason that he’s in the mix — given the fact that he’s yet to “conquer” Triple-A with just 99 at-bats there in 2022. Peraza entered the spring as the favorite with not only haven conquered Triple-A but also having 18 games and a postseason start under his belt in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Astros.
However, the all-around performance of Volpe — especially in the batters’ box — may be too appealing for the club to send to Scranton Wilkes-Barre as a team that figures to be searching for depth in their lineup and lacks a true leadoff hitter.
LEFT FIELD DERBY
The Yankees’ left-field competitors came to play Saturday afternoon. Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, Rafael Ortega and Willie Calhoun all smashed homers against the Rays.
For Hicks, his solo homer was a welcome sight after a brutal 2022 season — .642 OPS in 130 games — to see the ball flying out of Steinbrenner Field. The 33-year-old has gotten off to a strong start in his campaign to show the Bombers he still can provide value as he’s 3-for-10 with a .900 OPS this spring and is motivated to make sure his name is called when the Opening Day lineup is announced.
“It definitely gets the competitive juices flowing, that’s for sure,” Hicks said of the position battle during Friday’s game on the YES Network. “Because, I mean, it’s my spot. I’m here to do whatever I need to do to make sure I get that position. But most importantly, I need to have a spring training that allows me to be ready to go for the season.”
Ortega has pushed himself through the door as a legitimate candidate to fly north with the club. The 31-year-old has gotten off to a blistering start in the early days of March. The outfielder’s two-run homer was his second of the spring and is 3-for-8 with five RBI.
Ortega is more of a righty-specialist as he’s a .211 career hitter against southpaws as opposed to .243 against righties. The Bombers have not shied away from platoon situations in the past and Ortega’s performance is certainly something to monitor moving forward.
Luis Severino trotted out for his second start of the spring and the results were slightly better than his debut — when he allowed four runs in two innings of work.
The 29-year-old allowed two hits and three runs while striking out six during his 2.1 innings of work that stretched his pitch count out to 49. The Dominican native reached 98 mph on the radar gun which is a welcome sight as he prepares for a contract season in his second full-year off of Tommy John surgery.
For Severino, he is entering the season in unfamiliar circumstances in many different fascists. There is a case to be made that the flamethrower is penciled in for the fourth spot in the rotation with Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes as his rotation mates.
In years past, Severino was expected to lead the Yanks’ rotation or be the No. 2 behind Cole. Between the contract season and overall smaller load the two-time All-Stars’ performance will be closely watched this season.
Carlos Rodon will make his spring debut on Sunday afternoon against the Braves at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. The 30-year-old — freshly off of his six-year, $162 million contract he signed this past winter — will step on the mound for the first time in a game situation as Yankee.