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Anthony Volpe provides the runs in return from tummy trouble as swing changes keep yielding results

PHOENIX – When the Yankees scratched Anthony Volpe from their Sunday lineup against the Astros, fans of the injury-plagued team understandably started to panic on social media.

It wasn’t until a few minutes later, when a Yankees spokesperson cited an upset stomach for the late absence, that tweeters calmed down. Volpe was one of several Yankees who went on the team’s exhibition trip to Mexico City just before Opening Day, and tummy troubles have affected others who ventured south of the border.

That’s why pink bottles of Pepto-Bismol and salty snacks like pretzels and crackers have been a common sight in the Yankees’ clubhouse since the start of the season.

“He’s pretty ill,” Aaron Boone said of Volpe after sweeping the Astros. “We’ll see. He was in the handshake line with a smile on, but it’s been a rough day.”

As for his own health, Boone added, “I think I’m getting there. It hasn’t been the greatest five days. Shaking hands at the end of the day sure helps.”

While Volpe, a constant in the lineup during his rookie season, could not play on Sunday, he found himself back at shortstop in the Yankees’ series-opener against the Diamondbacks on Monday. In fitting fashion, he provided the runs — or at least a few of them — in a 5-2 win over the defending National League champs.

Volpe’s first at-bat produced a second-inning double. Austin Wells then pushed him to third before a bloop single from Oswaldo Cabrera brought Volpe home.

Then came the third inning, when Volpe knocked an RBI single up the middle. Another sac fly from Wells led to a comedy of Diamondbacks errors, which allowed Alex Verdugo and Volpe to score.

After a fifth-inning single, Volpe’s final act resulted in an eighth-inning double.

All in all, he finished the game 4-for-4 with two runs scored, two doubles and an RBI. He is now hitting .571 with a 1.667­ OPS, one home run, three RBI, four walks and three strikeouts after the first four-hit game of his young career.

While Monday was Volpe’s best display yet, his three walks on Opening Day first prompted Boone to say, “I think he looks like a way better hitter, period.” That was in comparison to Volpe’s debut season, which saw him hit .209 with a .283 OBP and 167 strikeouts.

That comment may have struck some as an overreaction to a one-game sample. But on Sunday, Boone said that he’s felt this way since the very first time he saw Volpe at the Yankees’ minor league complex over the offseason.

The 22-year-old spent the winter revamping his bat path, and Boone noticed immediately.

“I can picture walking over there in the cage and right away seeing a different kind of path,” the manager said. “You saw the adjustment that he worked on all winter right away in the cage, and then it just has continued to manifest itself in his work and in spring games and now here to start the season.”

The changes — and a year of experience against major league pitching — have allowed Volpe to make more contact in the early going. Which is exactly what James Rowson expected.

“It buys you a little bit more time,” the Yankees’ new hitting coach explained before Volpe hit .314/.364/.471 over 18 spring training games. “It allows you to see the ball a little longer, allows the ball to get a little closer to you. Ultimately, you do make some better decisions. But I think it also gives you an opportunity to cover more of the strike zone and drive more pitches within the strike zone.”

As Rowson predicted, Volpe’s swing decisions have also benefited after his chase and whiff rates exceeded 28% last season.

Through his first three games of 2024, Volpe saw 70 pitches. He only whiffed on two of them.

“I think it’s definitely swing adjustments he’s made,” Boone said. “Certainly, the experience and his aptitude and his baseball IQ. But swing and miss was an issue for him last year. So as I’ve talked about since early spring, you can clearly see he’s worked hard to plug some holes that the league exposed a little bit at times last year.”

Boone went on to say that some mechanical tweaks are easier to make than others during a season, which is why Volpe didn’t overhaul his bat path as a rookie.

Now, however, the sophomore believes his swing is where he wants it to be. So far, Volpe’s performance has backed that up.

“I feel like I’m just setting myself up better for success, and when I feel like I’m doing that, then everything will take care of itself,” he said. “So knowing that I’m always putting myself in positions to succeed definitely feels a lot better.”


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