Bronx, NY- The Yankees have a record number of players on the injured list and that has opened the door for 27-year old and Bronx native Andrew Velazquez. Selected in 2012, as a seventh round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Velazquez has had that cup of coffee at the Major League level.
Cleveland, Tampa Bay, a season with the Baltimore Orioles and Velazquez proved to be a quality infielder, though the one knock was not hitting for power. Regardless, the All-City star at nearby Fordham Prep in the Bronx is living his dream
Last week, the dream got better and became reality. Decimated with injuries, the Yankees signed Velazquez to a Major League contract and selected him to the 26-man roster from Triple-A Scranton. He recorded his first hit as a Yankee on Tuesday at Kansas City, a double in the third inning.
“How ironic,” he said late Monday afternoon on the field at Yankee Stadium.”When I was a kid I had pictures of me with the Yankee uniform.”
And then Valazquez, with a smile reminiscent of his days playing baseball as a kid with the Bronxchester Little League, and holding two bats, said ”I’m in there tonight.”
Yes, manager Aaron Boone penciled him ninth in the Yankees lineup and played shortstop. More of the reality also set in, because Velazquez was home and with family and friends in the ballpark to see his debut in Yankees pinstripes.
The biggest fans sitting up close were his mom and dad that always believed their son would one day wear Yankees pinstripes in the Bronx.
There is no telling how long this stay with the big club will last as the Yankees are slowly but surely getting back to health. Velazquez has been through this routine and played 40 games with the Orioles during the 60-game 2020 truncated season which accounts for the most games played during his MLB career.
I recall watching Velazquez often in the Bronx playing for Bronxhester, Fordham Prep, and some of the sandlot leagues. Then he said, the goal was playing the big yard at Yankee Stadium. So I asked him on the field Monday, how long will this run last with the hometown team?
He leaves that in the hands of the Yankees and manager Aaron Boone. All that matters for now is getting playing time and helping the Yankees in their drive to the postseason.
“For any baseball player, it is an accomplishment how hard it is for a player to get here,” he said. “Get some work in now and help them get to the playoffs is on my mind now. I am soaking it in now. Having a good time. I was in scranton, I was happy to get out of there, Just excited and taking in the moment”
At Scranton, Velazquez played 70 games, hit .283/.367/.471 with 38 runs, 18 doubles, 3 triples, 7 home runs and 43 RBI.
One aspect of his game the Yankees have noticed is speed and command at the position. Sunday afternoon in Chicago, Velazquez was inserted at short in the ninth inning and reached over his shoulder to prevent two White Sox’ runs from possibly scoring as the Yankees took two of three.
The call up at the time meant being on the Yankees roster for the Field Of Dreams Game against the White Sox last week in the small town of Dyersville, Iowa.
“Awesome, very good experience,” he said. “Kind of a story book thing going out there and a fun experience.”
But this is no storybook tale. A kid from the Bronx and Morris Park area is on the roster with the New York Yankees. Monday night, as his mom stood and took pictures on her phone, Velazquez went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. He also made a backhand play at short and threw to first that Luke Voit could not handle in the second inning.
The Yankees would go on and win their makeup game against the Angels, now winning 10 of their last 13 games as they continue to make a run for the postseason. For now, Andrew Velazquez is enjoying the moment.
“Just controlling the moment,” he said.
COLE RETURNS AND YANKEES CONTINUE TO ROLL: Gerrit Cole missed two weeks due to being placed on the COVID-19 injured list and the Yankees managed to continue winning ball games and make up ground in their quest for the postseason.
Monday night in the Bronx, Cole struck out nine in 5-⅔ innings and gave up a lone run, a solo home run in the first inning to the Angels Justin Upton. After that it was all Cole who said that fatigue set in after throwing 90 pitches.
The Yankees won a close 2-1 makeup game and are a Major League best 20-8 since July 17, improving to a season-high 14 game over. 500, and are two games behind the second place Red Sox and trail the A’s by 1-½ games for the second AL Wild Card.
And the Yankees are 43-23 when scoring two runs or less which indicates how good they are in close games. But Cole has returned and that is a major boost as the Yankees injured rotation is getting back to normal with Jordan Montgomery on the mound in game 1 of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday.
Montgomery was also on the COVID-10 injury list and the Yankees begin in what is now a huge four game series against the Red Sox. Look at it this way, the Yankees take three of four games and they are in command of the wild card with six weeks left to play.
But Cole was the story Monday night. So was Joey Gallo and his 29th home run of the season to the second deck in right in the first inning that scored two runs off left-hander Jose Suarez.
“He’s an ace and great at what he does.,” said manager Aaron Boone about Cole.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
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