When Harrison Bader arrived at the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field last Sunday morning, he did so with some important cargo in a plastic bag.
Inside were two bottles of Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, each of them with an additional note above the label written in silver marker—one to celebrate Ian Hamilton’s first MLB save and the other to Jake Bowers for his first home run. To congratulate. Yankee.
Bader walked across the room, leaving the bottle for Hamilton in his locker. He then gave the second to Bauers, who was already sitting in his stall.
Bader said later that morning, “Just a small gesture, nothing major.”
But the center fielder is hoping it can help him add the kind of camaraderie the Yankees are looking for during a long season with the likes of Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Gerrit Cole keying their way through.
“Listen, I think this is important,” Bader said. “We are trying to promote a clubhouse full of positivity. We all root for each other, we all pull for each other and we celebrate each other when we have small personal milestones, especially when they help us win. So I think it’s important, just to spread it out a little bit and keep the good energy going.
“It’s just a nice bottle of wine – a little gesture probably goes a long way. It’s also important to them, because there’s a lot of pressure, so when you perform and get the first one out of the way, So it should be celebrated. So I am happy to do it for those people.
Willie Calhoun received a bottle of Silver Oak from Bader early in the week, the day after he hit his first home run as a Yankee. Calhoun said it was the first time he had gotten something from a teammate for a milestone since 2017, when future Hall of Famer and then-Rangers teammate Adrian Beltre got him his first MLB hit. A gift was given after.
Although Bader is now as gifted as an established major leaguer, it wasn’t long before he was on the receiving end.
“I learned a lot from a lot of good guys in St. Louis,” said Bader, 28, who broke into the big leagues in 2017 with the Cardinals. And celebrated young boys when they did something good. So I definitely do my best to pursue it.
“Guys like Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler have done a really good job of reminding you that regardless of the result, it’s still a game, you have to have fun.”
Bader’s mementos kept with the theme of the gifts Rizzo gave each of his teammates on Opening Day this year: two bottles of Italian wine inside a personalized carrying case.
In a twist of irony, however, none of Calhoun, Hamilton, and Bowers were on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster, each finding their way from Triple-A to The Bronx in the first month of the season to fill a need. Could It made his winning contribution all the more significant, and Bader made sure he had something to remember it by.
“It makes a lot of sense,” Bauers said. “And it extends beyond just me.”
When Calhoun received his bottle from Bader the day after he hit the go-ahead home run in the seventh inning of a victory over the Guardians, he posted a picture of On Instagram.
Bauers’ mother, Misty, may have heard of the tradition. So when Bauers hit his first home run as a Yankee the next night, his mother asked him if Bader had given him a bottle of wine. “Not now,” said Bauers.
“And he said, ‘Okay, well, if he does, save it. I’d like to have a glass with you,'” Bauers said.
So Bauers is now saving the bottle for a time when he can open it and share it with his family. “It’s a very nice bottle,” her mom told her, Bauers said, “and she knows a thing or two.”
Calhoun plans to display the bottle in his memorabilia room at home.
But no matter how good the wine (Silver Oak 2018 vintage sells for $175 per bottle; Calhoun’s bottle is 2016) — Bader said Silver Oak has recently become his favorite when he has a glass — his teammates appreciate having him around.
In addition to what he’s added on the field since missing the first month of the regular season due to a strained oblique — in addition to his strong defense, he hit Thursday with three home runs and a 1.271 OPS in his first nine games. .400 batting. Judge called him a “sparkplug” – Bader felt his influence in the clubhouse.
“I think it just kind of speaks to the guy,” Bauers said. He is one of the best teammates I have ever had. It’s great to have someone like that in the clubhouse.”
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IKF feels the ‘pinch’
The Yankees had used the pinch-hitter 16 times this season through Thursday — tied for fourth-fewest in MLB.
His leader in pinch-hit plate appearances through 38 games? Isiah Kinar-Falefa.
Kenner-Falefa pinch-hit just 12 times in five seasons coming this year, but after converting to a super-utility role this spring, he already had four pinch-hitting appearances through Thursday. .
Partly because the Yankees value Kenner-Falefa’s contact-oriented approach, partly because of their success with runners in scoring position last season and partly because their bench has been thinned by injuries in the starting lineup. In his early years, Kenner-Falefa was often Aaron Boone’s first choice to pinch-hit.
Kiner-Falefa was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts as a pinch-hitter, one of the most difficult tasks in the game.
“I think I need to get better,” Kenner-Falefa said this week. “It’s been tough so far. Pinch-hitting obviously isn’t easy, especially when you’re coming into high-leverage situations. But I love being in those situations. You just have to find a way to get that confidence.” needed. If you start off the bench, sometimes it’s tough. But then when you’re getting trapped in the biggest of situations, you have to have that kind of confidence. I feel like That I am ready to go. I have not come yet.
Prior to this season, Kenner-Falefa was 2-for-7 as a pinch-hitter with three walks, two hit-by-pitches, and four strikeouts. Most of those appearances came in 2018 as a rookie with the Rangers.
Kenner-Falefa has spent the early part of this season trying to reacquaint herself with the role and the preparation that comes with it. He enters each game knowing which reliever he may face if the pinch hitter comes into play. He also knows that he is also often the Yankees’ top pinch-running option depending on what the bench looks like on each day.
“Usually you start [getting ready] In the fifth inning, but with the pitch clock now on, the innings is rolling and rolling,” said Kinar-Falefa. “I try to be prepared for the whole game, just because you never have enough time with how short innings are nowadays and how fast the game moves.”
down on the Farm
The Yankees could soon have another Card playing left field if none of their current options roll over or one of them gets injured.
Veteran outfielder Cole Calhoun, whom the Yankees signed to a minor league deal on April 20, is mashing a small sample size at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
In seven games through Thursday in SWB, Calhoun was 12-for-27 with three home runs, four walks and a 1.442 OPS.
It remains to be seen how that left-handed hitting can translate into MLB cameos for the 35-year-old, who batted just .196 with 12 home runs and 67 OPS-plus (100 league average) in 125 games. Last season with the Rangers. But if Calhoun stays hot, the Yankees might want to find out.
Dishing at Catcher Depth
Another minor league move that caught my eye this week: Catcher Carlos Narvaez was promoted from Double-A Somerset to Triple-A.
The 24-year-old impressed the Yankees’ coaching staff in major league camp this spring with his pitch framing and started the season with a .801 OPS through 16 games at Double-A.
Ben Rotvet — the only other catcher on the Yankees’ 40-man roster besides the MLB tandem of Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka — came off the injured list Thursday. But down the road, Narvaez could become another option behind the plate, should the Yankees need some help.
Of course, there’s also top catching prospect Austin Wells, now established as the starter at Double-A after missing the first month of the season with a rib injury. Potentially a candidate to see time in left field in the future, Wells hit four home runs in his first eight games with Somerset.