Jose Pirela blinked his eyes as if he was emerging from a dark room into the bright sunshine.
“Too many lights,” he said to a large group of reporters and cameras surrounding his stall in the Yankee clubhouse.
All eyes were on Pirela after he blasted his first career home run 418 feet off the left-hander CJ Wilson to lead off the seventh, extending the Yankees lead to 6-2.
Now, he had to talk about it.
“Yeah that’s how I was picturing it,” Pirela said through a translator. “I had been waiting for this for a long time. When I saw my teammates do the same thing, I wanted to do the same thing. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity because I haven’t been playing that much. Now that I have an opportunity I’m really excited that I can contribute.”
It’s been a tough season for Pirela, who missed six weeks after suffering a concussion in a collision with the center field wall in a spring training game against the Mets back in March.
Since he was activated on May 6, Pirela hasn’t exactly delivered with his bat, hitting just .237 with no homers or RBI in 16 games.
But he helped make an impact on Sunday, going 2-for-3 with a run scored while starting at second base.
Pirela, who said he planned to take the ball home and set it alongside the same ball he got his first hit with, couldn’t stop smiling when he returned to the dugout after the homer.
“He struggled early on,” Joe Girardi said afterward. “I gave him a couple (off) days in Oakland. I told him just to work hard on getting right. It seemed to get him going. He’s swinging the bat extremely well again, especially against lefthanders. Seeing him hit his first home run, guys were real excited. They love him in there because of his energy and how hard he plays. It was really good to see.”
FEELING A DRAFT
Jacob Lindgren recalls the exact moment he was selected by the Yankees with the 55th pick in the second round of last year’s 2014 First Year Player Draft.
He also recalls the physical toll it took on him because it triggered a rowdy celebration that resulted in his buddies tossing him in a swimming pool.
“That was funny,” Lindgren said before Sunday’s game, lounging in the Yankee clubhouse. “It was amazing.”
Lindgren, a rookie reliever, represents a best-case scenario for those who will be selected in the 2015 First Year Player Draft, which starts on Monday.
After he was chosen last June out of Mississippi State, Lindgren sprinted through the minor league system, making his Major League debut on May 25 with a scoreless eighth and ninth inning appearance.
The Yankees have the 16th pick in the first round of this draft.
“I just try to improve myself on each level and move up and as fast as possible,” he said. “Everybody wants to play for the major league club so that’s the whole goal.”
Though he said he doesn’t get involved in the decision making in whom to draft, Girardi admitted his curiosity will be heightened on Monday as a result of Lindgren’s rise.
“I’ll be tuned it tomorrow to see- because it always takes you back to the day when you were drafted which was a special day,” Girardi said. “But you’re curious to see who you’re going to see who you’re going to pick up. You look at our draft pick last year is here already, so you start thinking if it’s a college junior or a college senior, how quick can they rise and that sort of thing.”
ELLSBURY ON THE UPSWING
Girardi offered another positive yet slightly vague update on Jacoby Ellsbury, saying he’s making progress on his recovery from a right knee sprain but doesn’t know when he will start taking batting practice or when he will return. Ellsbury hasn’t played since he hurt his knee while swinging a bat in a game on May 19.
“He’s running harder, he’s swinging more, he’s throwing more,” the manager said. “As far as maybe him going through a real BP, I don’t have a date on that. But he’s obviously making progress.”
The man who rode Triple Crown winner American Pharoah to victory Saturday at Belmont, Victor Espinoza, tossed out the ceremonial first trip before Sunday’s game. Espinoza heaved a strike, much to the crowd’s enjoyment, which roared.
RYAN RETURN NEARING
Girardi said that infielder Brendan Ryan was getting closer to returning from a myriad of injuries- the latest a hamstring pull. He’s currently on rehab assignment at Double-A Trenton.
“I’ll probably sit down and talk to Ryan after the game (today) to see where he’s at,” Girardi said. “He played again yesterday, he played shortstop in Trenton. He’s played third. We’ll have him play some second but we’ll see but he’s getting closer.”
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