Andrew Benintendi came to the Yankees as an All Star hitter. The lefty outfielder was having his best season with the Royals, hitting for average and on-base percentage, scoring runs and driving them in. That was the kind of hitter the Yankees thought would be perfect hitting in front of or behind Aaron Judge.
So when the Bombers made the trade to bring Benintendi he said exactly the right things about not changing. Despite the fact that lefty hitters have a nice short porch in right field to hit balls out to, Benintendi said he wouldn’t change his swing. He wouldn’t suddenly be trying to mash everything to right field.
But in the back of his mind, Benintendi saw that short porch. Just 318 feet out and well, Benintendi got a little tempted.
“Obviously when you come here you think about that short right field. It’s hard not to think about and I think my thought was too far to the right side, like almost dead right field opposed to right-center field,” Benintendi said. “In the back of my mind. I was thinking about it. I shouldn’t have been. But now I’m just trying to think about hitting it in the middle of the field, almost left-center.”
And suddenly, Benintendi looks more settled in, more like the player the Yankees went out and traded for to replace a struggling Joey Gallo and make their lineup more complete. Tuesday night, 28-year-old hit the go-ahead RBI-single in the seventh inning of the Yankees 4-2 win over the Mets, it was his second hit of the night and his third straight multiple-hit game.
In his first 13 games with the Yankees, Benintendi hit .175/.320/.275 with 11 strikeouts, nine walks and four doubles. Aaron Boone said he was waiting for Benintendi to settle in, because the Yankees knew he was too good of a hitter to stay in that funk.
“I wouldn’t necessarily use that as why I was not performing the way I like to,” Benintendi said. “I think it was just one of those things you go through. It’s unfortunate that it happened right when I got over here but it’s a hard game and you keep putting in the work and pray that it’ll turn around. So I continue to work with the guys and hope to get good at-bats.”
In his last four games, Benintendi has hit 7-for-14 with three runs scored, two doubles, and a home run. That home run was a monster shot into the second deck in right field, the shot the Yankees needed to end a three-game losing streak and which started this three game winning streak.
Hitting coach Dillon Lawson smiled when asked about the home run, because it was perfectly what the Yankees had hoped they would see a little of. He understood, however, the temptation and Benintendi’s adjustment.
“We told him he has been a good hitter in a lot of parks; Kauffman Stadium, Fenway Park and here,” Lawson said. “We told him the wall (in right field) is there and it will happen if he’s just the same hitter that we went out and traded for, he didn’t have to worry about it. He put in a lot of work, it wasn’t just settling in and hoping he’d come around, he works hard every day and home run aside, I think you see the hitter we wanted.
“And you see why we wanted him.”
Benintendi did have a tumultuous month. He flew on the Royals charter to New York planning on playing a four game series against the Yankees. Hours later, he was a Yankee.
Replacing Gallo, the target of Yankees fans’ animus, put Benintendi in the spotlight from the get-go. He has been a solid defensive left fielder, but the slow start earned him some of the boos Gallo left behind when he was dealt to the Dodgers. Benintendi, who spent his first five years in the big leagues in Boston, understood the expectations playing in a place like the Bronx.
“I don’t want to use (the transition) as an excuse,” Benintendi said. “I’ll just say I feel comfortable here, I have settled in and I am happy I am contributing.”
Now that he’s re-centered his swing, Yankees fans — and Yankee manager Aaron Boone — can’t wait to see him come up in a big spot.
“He’s so good bat-to-ball,” Boone said. “That’s what we’ve loved about him. It’s starting to happen. I do enjoy it in a big situation with him coming up right now because he’s settling in.”
Source: Berkshire mont
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