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Gleyber Torres keeps promise to 13-year-old boy who has battled leukemia

TAMPA — Second baseman, shortstop … and tourist.

The private Gleyber Torres actually enjoys being out in public.

So much so that, shortly after he received The Call from the Yankees last April, Torres and his wife Elizabeth headed to Times Square, of all places. It remains one of their favorite locales within Manhattan, which they often visit from their Westchester home.

“It’s like my city where I was born in Venezuela, where I lived, Caracas, but a little bigger and better,” the Yankees’ sophomore star said in a recent interview. “Every off day I got, I tried to know a little bit of New York.”

Perhaps this helps explain why Torres took to the big stage so quickly, becoming a rookie All-Star in 2018 while finishing third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. He’s used to noise, to crowds, to action. The 22-year-old didn’t dismiss the theory, just as he didn’t dismiss Times Square for having too much of everything.

“I walk every street, go to eat, shopping,” he said. “Really fun.”

Torres provided plenty of fun for those who came to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday. In his sixth Grapefruit League start at shortstop (against seven games at second), he tallied five assists and smoked a two-run, first-inning homer, his second of the spring, against Blue Jays starter Thomas Pannone that cleared the left field walkway and departed the stadium. He owns a .281/.324/.531 slash line in exhibition games.

The home run proved especially meaningful for Zac Schwartz, a 13-year-old young man from upstate New York who is in remission after getting treated for leukemia. At this game as a guest of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Schwartz (as first reported by the YES Network’s Jack Curry) watched the Yankees take pregame batting practice and asked Torres, “Can you hit a home run for me?” According to Schwartz’s Yankees escort, Ray Negron, Torres winked — then delivered.

“He gets it,” Negron said of Torres, who has been very open to helping with charitable ventures.

His deftness in baseball’s loudest setting, after arriving as a hyped prospect whose promotion to the big leagues had been eagerly anticipated since the Yankees acquired him from the Cubs in the 2016 trade for Aroldis Chapman, has gained notice by many of his more experienced peers.

“One thing you look for from a young player, especially at his age, [is if you can tell] whether they’re having success or failure. You couldn’t tell,” said Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin, who once upon a time faced significant scrutiny as the top-overall pick [by the Astros] of the 1992 amateur draft. “I think that’s going to be something that is a benefit for him moving forward.”

The stakes rise for Torres this year as Didi Gregorius rehabilitates from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. His nearly even distribution of starts down here reflects the Yankees’ desire to rotate him back and forth, with newcomers Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu helping at second base and shortstop, respectively.

“I’m prepared for both positions and ready for the opportunity,” Torres said. “If it’s short, I’ll do my job at short. If it’s second, I’ll do my job at second. I think it’s the most important. Just help my team and do my job.”

“I’ve been really happy with his work, starting in the winter, of preparing for this role,” Aaron Boone said of Torres. “He’s kind of welcomed it with open arms. I think he and [infield coach Carlos Mendoza] have done a really good job of developing a routine for, ‘OK, I know I’m playing second. I know I’m playing short. Here’s my routine.’ And I think he’s played really well in the field, both spots.”

In addition to improving as a ballplayer, Torres aspires to see more of Manhattan this season. He and his wife especially enjoyed Central Park (“The people walking and bicycling, the restaurants”) and Broadway — he ranked “The Lion King” as his favorite show.

“Sometimes we go someplace to relax and try something different,” he said.

Thankfully for the Yankees, Torres seems to relax where others cower.



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