Monday, November 28

Yankees Notebook: Defense a key to strong start; Aaron Judge takes a seat

KANSAS CITY — The Yankees went into Saturday night’s game with the Lucky 13. They have gone 13 straight games without committing an error, and they were lucky to reach that point. Friday night, Gleyber Torres was charged with an error on a wind-blown pop-up that was overturned before the game ended.

The error was rightfully overturned as Torres was way into centerfield and the ball never touched his glove. The Yankees’ defense has been much improved this season. It was a point of emphasis when the Yankees made the change at shortstop from Torres to Isiah Kiner-Falefa this offseason and continued with more infield work before games this season.

“I’m really excited about the way DJ [LeMahieu] has looked, especially being able to go back over to third base as much as he’s been able to do. I feel like he’s moving and throwing better than he was at any time last year. That’s been really encouraging to see,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “You know, obviously, what [Kiner Falefa] brings, his athleticism in the middle of the diamond. Feel like we’re in really good hands behind the plate with our tandem back there. Then there is the anchor over there at first [Anthony Rizzo] just kind of brings it all together.

“I feel like we’ve worked hard on our defense … it’s a priority. And so far it’s been good, but it’s April.”

The 13-game stretch is tied for their second-longest errorless streak in franchise history, behind the 18 games the 2009 team went without an error. Their four errors are the fewest in the big leagues this season, ahead of Saturday’s opponent the Royals, who have five.

The addition of first base coach Travis Chapman, who works with the infielders, and Luis Rojas to work with the outfielders has played a part, Boone said.

“We’re trying to be as specific as we can with work we do with them. [Chapman] coming in and being full-time with the infield [has] freed up [bench coach Carlos Mendoza] to oversee and do other things as well. Chapman is very specific in some of the things, some drills specific things, that help create range and help create first step kind of things from an infield perspective,” Boone said. “And same thing from the outfield perspective. And I’ll even take it to the catchers and Tanner [Swanson], very specific with the work and where we want to focus on where we can potentially make the most gains.”

Aaron Judge was out of the starting lineup Saturday night, a scheduled day off that comes in the middle of his hot streak. Judge has hit three home runs in his last four games and five in his last seven.

“I was kinda targeting this middle day [of the Royals series] with him,” Boone said. “Again it’s always hard to have him out of the lineup, but I was going to be pretty disciplined about it going into tonight. With another day game [Sunday] after a night game and then going into the turf in Toronto. I just felt like this was the day.”

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Judge has seven RBI in his last two games and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, hitting .325/.372/.750 with 12 RBI in that span.

Jose Trevino was back in the lineup Saturday, catching Gerrit Cole for the second straight start. Cole had his best — and only good — outing of the season on Sunday with Trevino behind the plate, but Boone said it wasn’t becoming a personal catcher situation.

Cole was pretty particular about Kyle Higashioka catching him over Gary Sanchez in the past. Trevino, however, is considered a much better defensive catcher than Sanchez and as good at receiving the ball as Higashioka.

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