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Gleyber Torres shows encouraging sign in Yankees’ injury-free spring opener

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TAMPA — Just two batters into the exhibition season, Toronto’s Marcus Semien hit a ball to shallow right field.

Aaron Judge raced in and briefly looked like he was going to attempt a diving catch and most of the 2,637 fans at George M. Steinbrenner Field likely cringed at the thought of the right fielder crashing to the turf so soon into spring training, given his injury history.

Judge, though, smartly pulled up and let the ball fall in for a single and the Yankees survived their first game of the spring — seemingly — with no health issues.

While that might seem like a simple task, it hasn’t been for the Yankees in recent years. And so much of what they want to do this season is tied to keeping players like Judge on the field.

So consider Sunday’s 6-4 loss in seven innings to the Blue Jays a success.

Because if the Yankees end up going where they intend, they’ve got a long way to get there.

It’s why Judge — who missed all of last spring training with a fractured rib suffered the previous season on a similar play to the one he didn’t attempt Sunday — isn’t in a rush to get too much game action.

Yankees
Gleyber Torres makes a play in the hole at shortstop.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Not only did Judge and his teammates stay upright, there were some other promising signs.

Perhaps the most notable came in the top of the second, when Gleyber Torres raced to his left and made a nice scoop of a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. grounder up the middle, turning it into an easy out.

Whether that was just a solid play from an inconsistent shortstop or a sign that Torres has indeed, as the Yankees hope, started to turn the corner defensively, won’t be known until the games start to count.

“During the offseason, I prepared myself to be more consistent on defense,’’ Torres said. “I try not to worry about my defense from last year. It’s happened already. I’m focused now on being ready for each pitch. I worked so hard during the offseason and the couple of days of spring training to try to show confidence and play the game.”

Torres was another key Yankee who battled injuries last season, as did Giancarlo Stanton.

So Aaron Boone said Stanton — along with the recently signed Brett Gardner — won’t play in a game until Wednesday night against the Blue Jays in Tampa, skipping Monday against the Tigers and Tuesday’s trip to Sarasota to visit the Orioles.

Judge, though, said he plans on playing in Sarasota on Tuesday, as well as Wednesday night, as the Yankees come up with a schedule for the 28-year-old.

“We’ll slowly ease into it,’’ said Judge, who intends to play every day in nine-inning games in the final week of spring training.

“We’re taking it slow right now,’’ Judge said.

Like Torres, Judge focused this offseason on not just improving his production on the field, but also his ability to stay on it.

“There were a couple things with my swing I wanted to change and be a little more consistent,’’ Judge said. “And get my body ready for 162 [games] and the postseason. That’s a goal of mine.”

Avoiding injury has been an issue with Judge and he’s hoping to eliminate that part of his résumé.

“Consistency is the biggest thing,’’ Judge said. “And showing up every day.”

Part of showing up for Judge has been his interaction with fans — especially young ones — by playing catch with them and signing autographs.

Both are no-nos in the COVID world, but Judge did what he could Sunday, by tossing a ball into the right-field stands after warming up.

“It’s tough,’’ Judge said of not being able to engage with fans as much. “I guess I just have to let my play be the connection. Put on a show. I think that’s all you can really do. … You’ve got to be old school and put on show for the fans.”

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Bulls’ Zach LaVine called cops on ‘obsessed’ fan at his home

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Zach LaVine had an unwanted visitor.

The Chicago Bulls star had to call the police after an “allegedly obsessed” woman showed up to his Chicago home and refused to leave on Thursday night, according to TMZ. 

The woman reportedly traveled from out of state, demanding to speak with the first-time All-Star, who was home at the time.

Police took her a local hospital for mental evaluation, and she has not been formally arrested or charged with a crime.

LaVine, 25, wrapped up first-half action with the Bulls on Wednesday and was drafted to Kevin Durant’s All-Star side for Sunday’s festivities in Atlanta.

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Blake Griffin a free agent after Pistons buyout

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Blake Griffin will be free to sign with the Nets or another interested NBA team after agreeing to a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons.

The six-time All-Star forward “has interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders and is expected to make a decision on his next team after conversations with prospective teams,” ESPN reported.

The Nets, Lakers, Heat, Warriors and Clippers – his former team — are among those that have expressed interest, according to the New York Times. ESPN.com added that the Blazers are interested

The 31-year-old Griffin hasn’t played since Feb. 12 while the Pistons attempted to trade him before the March 25 deadline, but they found no takers due to the remainder of his $36.6 million salary for this season and the $39 million he’s owed for 2021-22.

Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
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Griffin is averaging a career-low 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20 games this season. He was dealt by the Clippers to Detroit in 2018, during the first season of a five-year extension worth $171 million.



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Broncos send a pretty strong warning to Drew Lock

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Drew Lock is no lock to remain the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2021.

General manager George Paton and coach Vic Fangio both said Thursday that the team expects to bring in competition for Lock, possibly with the ninth pick in the NFL Draft.

“Obviously we’re always looking to bring in players at all positions that can raise the level of competition, and the quarterback is no different in that regard,” Fangio said, according to the team’s website.

“Until we get or until Drew proves to be the next great quarterback, like the ones that the Denver franchise has been used to in years past or certain teams around the league … are used to, we’re going to always try and bring in competition. But I have confidence that Drew can continue to improve.”

Lock made 13 starts in 2020 and tied with Carson Wentz for the league lead with 15 interceptions. He finished 32nd in the league among qualifying quarterbacks with a 75.4 passer rating, ahead of only Dwayne Haskins, Wentz and Sam Darnold.

Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
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“Very talented, was inconsistent at times, has a lot to work on,” Paton said Thursday. “But I’ve spoken with Drew, I see him every day. He’s here early. He’s working. He really wants to be great. And we’re always going to try to bring in competition at every position, and quarterback as well. But I like the track that Drew’s on.”

Lock, the Broncos’ second-round pick in 2019 out of Missouri, had started five games as a rookie, winning four of them. Denver went 4-9 with him as the starter last season.

“I’m confident that Drew’s going to continue to improve,” Fangio said. “Drew’s had a great offseason up to this point. There’s not a lot you can do, but he’s working hard on his own, coming over here and getting workouts, and I know he’s doing a lot at home by himself, watching video by himself. He’s got a good setup over there. And he’s doing anything and everything he can to improve, even in February and now in March.”

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