TAMPA, Fla. (AP) After watching J.D. Martinez transform into one of baseball’s most powerful sluggers, Brandon Drury decided his career could lift off with some of that long-ball technique.
So Drury commuted from his Las Vegas home to Southern California a half-dozen times during the offseason to work with the coaches who rebuilt the swings of Martinez and Chris Taylor. Launch angle is baseball’s in vogue buzzword, and Drury wants some buzz.
”I don’t feel like I’ve done anything like what I’m capable of the last couple years. They’ve both been kind of a grind,” Drury said Thursday after his first workout with the New York Yankees. ”The numbers are OK, I would say, but I don’t think that those last two seasons is half of where I am.”
A 25-year-old who made his big league debut three years ago, Drury hit .267 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs last year in his second full season with the Diamondbacks, a year after batting .282 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs.
New York acquired him from Arizona on Tuesday for prospects as part of a three-team trade that included Tampa Bay. He displaced rookie Miguel Andujar as the favorite to take over at third, where Chase Headley and Todd Frazier played last season.
An inexpensive option because he is not yet eligible for salary arbitration, Drury will be back at his natural position. Because Jake Lamb started at third for Arizona, Drury was at second last season and mostly in the outfield two years ago.
”I see a talented player, a guy that’s in really good shape and a guy that I think his eyes are lighting up right now,” new Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. ”We think he’s going to impact our club. This is a guy that’s had success in his first couple years in the big leagues. We feel like there’s more in there.”
Martinez had 29 homers and 65 RBIs in 62 games with the Diamondbacks, raising his profile going into free agency and earning a $110 million, five-year contract with Boston that is pending.
”I’d just pick his brain all the time and ask him about what he did,” Drury said. ”I started learning the moves.”
Martinez had worked with Craig Wallenbrock and his protegee, Robert Van Scoyoc. Drury reworked his swing with the pair and Diamondbacks assisting hitting coach Tim Laker.
”I would always really swing steep and downhill,” Drury said. ”I’d hit a single up the middle or a double in the right-center gap, which was great – but that’s not what I want.”
Another right-handed hitter in a righty-dominated batting order, he hopes to take advantage of homer friendly Yankee Stadium. Balls carry well to right-center, which rewards opposite-field power.
”The homers, you can’t force them. But I feel like naturally they’re going to come more since I’ve put so much work into getting the ball in the air more,” he said. ”If I could take – easy to say – 10, 15 of those doubles and turn them into homers, power numbers are going to be decent.”
New York’s batting order figures to include righties Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres; lefties Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird and Brett Gardner; and switch-hitter Aaron Hicks.
A Yankees fan growing up, Drury was impressed when New York acquired Stanton from Miami in December to pair with Judge.
”I think everybody was like, wow, that’s the best lineup in baseball, easy,” Drury said.
Notes: New York’s first exhibition game is Friday against Detroit, the first game manager by Boone at any level. ”They’ll be a little excitement with the crowd, pinstripes and actually playing a game,” Boone said. ”You get some juices flowing for that.” … Stanton is expected to play. Judge, working his way into shape after left shoulder surgery, is not likely to play until next week. … Steinbrenner Field will open three hours before first pitch for all home spring training games, allowing fans to watch Stanton and Judge take BP. Fans will be permitted in the outfield sections for only the first hour.
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