After just missing a pitch up in the zone during live batting practice on Thursday, blooping it into shallow left rather than driving it into the gap, Yankees outfielder Mike Tauchman snapped his bat over his left knee.
For a simulated game one week into spring training, that might seem a little excessive, but Tauchman understands that every at-bat counts as he strives to earn playing time.
So, what did he do in his next trip to the batter's box? The lefty pounced on a fastball from Gerrit Cole, depositing it over the wall in right-center field for a booming home run.
Tauchman enters this spring among a slew of position players duking it out for the final few spots on New York's Opening Day roster. With no options remaining on his contract, his time in pinstripes would be in danger of abruptly coming to a close if he didn't make the big-league club next month.
As much as it's way too early to begin making decisions on roster cuts and bench alignment for the regular season, Yankees manager Aaron Boone sees potential in having Tauchman on the team this year.
"This is a really elite defensive outfielder that can play all three positions out there, a guy that runs the bases well, can run, can steal bases," Boone said. "When we saw him at his best for really an extended period in 2019, it was a guy that was controlling the zone, hitting for some power, real competitive at-bats, whether it was against right- and left-handed pitching."
With Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge expected to start in the outfield this season (from left to right), and Brett Gardner returning for his 14th year with the club, Tauchman will have to convince Boone this spring that he should bring along a fifth outfielder once the regular season begins.
Further, he's not the only one in the running for that spot either. Non-roster invitees Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich both would provide experience off the bench and plenty of pop from the left side. Tyler Wade and Miguel Andújar are also capable of playing in the outfield.
The key for Tauchman, to Boone, is recapturing the performance he had back in 2019. In 87 games, the 30-year-old hit .277/.361/.504 with 13 homers and 46 runs scored. He provided a team overwhelmed with injuries with a spark off the bench on both sides of the ball.
The following season was a different story. Tauchman gradually lost playing time, finishing the final month-plus of the season with a .136 batting average (6-for-44) in 23 games played.
"I think just last year, just in the shortened season and kind of struggled a little bit there down the stretch, and then his playing time became a little more inconsistent," Boone said.
As spring training continues, Tauchman will look to solidify his role. It just might take a few more bombs off pitchers like Cole to give him the edge in what's poised to be quite the competition for playing time going forward.
"He's a talented player," Boone said. "We'll see how everything shakes out, but when he's right, and I think physically in a good place like he is right now, he's capable of really having an impact."
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