CLEVELAND — Francisco Lindor is considered by many to be the premier shortstop in the American League. At 23 he has been an All-Star the past two seasons and is in his third year.
Yet, like most of the great ones, he watches others at his position hoping to pick up something. So, when Lindor can, he watches Didi Gregorius.
“I know he has had a very successful season and he is fun to watch when we play against him,’’ Lindor said of Gregorius whose three-run homer off Ervin Santana in the first inning of the AL wild-card game Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium was one of several big reasons the Yankees face the Indians in Game 1 of the ALDS at Progressive Field on Thursday night. “He is someone you can learn from.’’
Gregorius’ skills are easy to spot. Good range, soft hands, powerful and accurate throwing arm. His 25 homers are the most by a Yankees shortstop, and he hit .287 with 87 RBIs after missing the first month of the season.
“He always looks like he is in the game and on the defense side of the game he always looks like he is going to catch everything,’’ Lindor said. “On the offensive side, he has pretty good plate coverage, and he is not giving away outs.’’
Asked if he could imagine being Derek Jeter’s replacement in New York, Lindor shook his head.
“I never saw him play for the Yankees, I would have loved to see him play for the Yankees,’’ Lindor said. “I know the legacy he left behind. It’s probably tough to fill his shoes, especially [since] he won that many championships.’’
With a tired bullpen and improved pitching Dellin Betances could be the wild card for the Yankees in the ALDS. Control problems in his first three outings in September forced Joe Girardi to use David Robertson in the eighth inning in front of Aroldis Chapman. After walking four and giving up three hits (one homer) in 2 ²/₃ innings in a three-game stretch from Sept. 5-11, Betances has issued three walks and three hits in his previous seven outings.
In Tuesday night’s 8-4 AL wild-card win Girardi used Tommy Kahnle to finish the sixth and stuck with the right-hander for the seventh and eighth. That got the game to Chapman.
Nevertheless, Girardi firmly believes Betances will be a factor in who advances to the ALCS.
“No, I am going to use him,’’ Girardi said when asked if he had lost some trust in Betances. “He is going to be used in important situations. We need him. His issues this year has been walks. He seems when he gets on a roll he doesn’t allow them and that is the most important thing right now.’’
The Yankees and Indians have until 10 a.m. Thursday to set their 25-man roster and the Yankees, who took 10 pitchers for the wild-card game against the Twins, will add to that after Chad Green, Robertson and Kahnle went multiple innings in relief.
Masahiro Tanaka will be on the roster and start Game 3. Lefty starters Jordan Montgomery and Jaimie Garcia are possibilities but that would force Girardi into likely deciding between Clint Frazier or Tyler Wade to remain active.
As for changing the lineup for Game 1, Girardi hinted it was a possibility.
“There could be. We will talk about it [Thursday] and we might do something a little bit different.’’
One possibility is returning Chase Headley to the DH role after using Jacoby Ellsbury there Tuesday night when he went 0-for-4.
Joba Chamberlain watched the Yankees-Twins AL wild-card game at home in Nebraska and at first he said it was weird seeing former teammate Robertson in a game in the third inning. Then after Robertson hurled a career-high 3 ¹/₃ innings Chamberlain wondered how Robertson’s right arm would be Wednesday.
“It was unbelievable and knowing him and coming up with him was neat,’’ Chamberlain said. “I hope he can use that arm [Wednesday].’’
Jason Kipnis isn’t going to win a Gold Glove in center field, but he hasn’t hurt the Indians after moving from second base.
“I am doing the best I can,’’ said Kipnis, who has played center in 11 games and 75 at second base. “Baseball instincts take over. I am not looking to break the mold.’’
The Yankees might be looking to run on Kipnis because very few infielders have arms that translate to even average outfield arms and scouts who have watched him say the arm is below average.