With the Yankees’ Grapefruit League schedule exactly halfway over, the competition for the final bench spots are beginning to come into focus.
Though Mike Tauchman and Derek Dietrich certainly factor into that conversation, with their spots on the Opening Day roster anything but guaranteed, they insist that how they might fit is not top of mind for them as they go about their work.
“A really good way to make myself crazy is worry about that,” Tauchman said after going 1-for-3 Sunday in the Yankees’ 5-1 win over the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. “There’s certain things that I’m trying to get done in spring training. It didn’t go well today, I got thrown out, but going first to third, going gap to gap for balls, being aggressive with leadoffs, trying to see a lot of pitches, stuff like that. That’s infinitely more important to me than worrying about some competition or whatever.”
“Everyone’s trying to do their absolute best to be the best they can for the team,” added Dietrich, who went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts while starting at second base. “That’s what I’ve always focused on in any position.”
Tauchman, who could be fighting for the final spot with veteran Jay Bruce, delivered a reminder of his defensive value in center field Sunday, making a diving catch on a Marcus Semien liner in the sixth inning. He was also thrown out on the bases in the fourth inning after trying to go from first to third on a Clint Frazier single to center field.
Through seven games this spring, Tauchman is batting 4-for-18 with a home run after hitting .242 with no home runs in a disappointing 2020, following his breakout year in 2019. He tweaked his swing in the offseason and believes he will be better off for it, despite some ups and downs this spring.
“I was pretty happy early, in some live [batting practices] and early couple games,” said Tauchman, who is out of minor league options. “Got a little bit jumpy, but the good thing is I feel like it was a little easier for me to recognize that and make those adjustments to get back to where I wanted to be. I feel like the last few games, I’ve been a lot better balanced and able to stay on pitches a lot better and use the field. So I’ve been happy.”
Dietrich, who is 1-for-13 in six games as a non-roster invite but offers defensive versatility, called his spring a “work in progress.”
“This is my 11th spring training, so I’ve had great springs, I’ve had bad springs, I’ve got off to good starts, I’ve got off to slow starts,” Dietrich said. “So nothing I’m not accustomed to.”
— Additional reporting by Dan Martin in Dunedin, Fla.