Yankees Chase Headley Finally Breaks Torrid Drought, Credits Reggie Jackson

New York Yankees’ third-baseman Chase Headley hasn’t been consistent at the plate, but he has consistently been showered with boos from the Yankee Stadium crowd who have grown tired of his ineptitude at the plate. Inept may be a bit too kind; Headley has been downright putrid this season.

Prior to finally breaking out of a terrible slump on Thursday, Headley’s last home-run occurred on Sept. 12, 2015 and lasted a span of 170-at bats. That type of drought makes any baseball fan cringe. It was not only Headley’s first homer of the season but also his first extra-base hit.

“It’s a good feeling,” Headley said. “It’s been a long time. It felt like it’s been a really long time. To get the first one out of the way was good. Good start, but I got to keep it going.”

Asking Headley when he last went yard was met with an interesting, yet honest, response.

“I don’t even want to know,” he said. “I know it was a long time ago.”

“It’s been pretty crummy all year, to be honest,” he said. Through it all Headley has maintained confidence that the hits, and homeruns, will return. It just took an awful longtime for them to return to his plate production.

“My swing works,” he said. “I’ve seen it work and I know that it works. I just haven’t had it for a while.”

“There was never a question in my mind that I was going to come out of it – and that I will come out of it,” Headley added.

But the celebration needs to be capped because Headley is still, despite this being a positive story, downright terrible. Headley is batting .194 (ouch) with a OBP of .283 (double ouch) and although he is serviceable in the field, if he doesn’t start producing at the plate the Yankees may be forced to turn the page.

“I’m very confident in who I am as a player,” he said. “But you have to produce. When you’re playing here and the team’s not playing well, you know you have to get it going. The confidence in the short term wasn’t as high as it usually is, so it was frustrating. But never have I thought, ‘I’m not going to hit anymore.’”

In the midst of a 4-year deal worth around $13 million annually, Yankee fans have grown tired of his play, and for good reason, but Headley was hard on himself throughout his drought. He is well liked in the clubhouse and has a good demeanor, even when the going gets really tough.

“The times that were toughest for me was when I came up in a situation where the game was on the line or I had a chance to come through with a big hit and wasn’t able to do it,” he said. “Move a runner, drive somebody in from third with less than two outs; those hurt as much as anything. When the team’s not winning and not scoring runs, those for me are probably the most frustrating.”

Headley stated that throughout this entire ordeal his teammates have been supportive and were elated when he finally broke out.

“I’ve seen that a number of times here,” Headley said. “I think they’ve been as supportive and helpful in getting through a tough time as they possibly can be. It’s not an easy place to play when you’re not playing well. These guys have been tremendous and I’m very appreciative for them.”

Headley also credit Reggie Jackson, aka “Mr. October”, for helping him with his swing.

“I was hitting so many ground balls to second base; I was trying to fight to stay inside of it,” he said. “When you’re doing that, you’re not really taking aggressive swings. I was finally able to find something to help me clear my hands, get my hands out in front of me. When you do that, you don’t have to think about where the ball is going or where you’re trying to hit it. You just let it go.”

For now, Headley has wiped the slate clean and has a positive foundation to build upon. But if things go awry again, you can’t help but assume that the Yankees will look for other options and rightfully so, they cannot afford to take this journey with Headley again.

Cactus Memories, Reggie’s A Hit, Astros No Hit

Mr. October also hangs out in March.

(Photo: AP)

Dating back to 2003, I’ve attended the Cactus League for a total of six seasons with either my brother or wife alongside me. However, I haven’t been to Arizona for spring training since 2010. I highly recommend adding that trip to the bucket list. Almost all the parks are close to each other making for easy commutes. A good desert wind also makes for a high run scoring environment.

I don’t advise taking your 3-month old daughter if you have any fear of getting stuck in the middle of a foul ball fracas. I’m on hiatus from this adventure until at least next year, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the cool experience of spring training with its laid back attitude and pace. Bonus points are awarded if you also hang out in Scottsdale to watch some of the NCAA tournament games.

Players are at arms reach and friendly when walking from the practice fields to the stadium and it’s just fun to see the most random players get their shot in a game after seeing the regulars give it a whirl for a few innings. The scorecard becomes unreadable in the the later innings especially after a second #89 – who most likely wandered over from the team’s minor league camp that day – enters the game in the 8th.

The side note stories to spring training also remind me how much fun baseball can be in the month of March. It’s no doubt highly stressful for some, like the relief pitchers you’ve never heard of blowing games in the late innings as they get their work. Wins and losses don’t really matter at this point so they can be forgiven. Oh sure, not every roster spot is set, but from the eyes of the superstars it’s all about searching for your timing at the plate and in the tee box. Here are some oddities and observations from the weekend. MLB.com’s Cut 4 just made me aware of the bees.

Sunday afternoon Yankees spring training instructor, or better yet, Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson autographed and wrote a get well note on a baseball and hand delivered it into the stands to two veteran ladies, who just seconds earlier had been dodging an errant Jose Lobaton bat that was on the loose during the Nationals-Yankees game. Jackson sat next to the fans to make sure they were OK and followed up on their condition later in the game.

A swarm of bees  took some time to attend and delay the Royals-Angels game in Tempe on Sunday. They must of wanted to see reigning AL MVP Mike Trout blast his 1st home run of the spring.

Rewinding to Saturday we find Bob Melvin’s friend Jim Harbaugh spending some time coaching 1st base for the Athletics during their game against the Angels. They both have a history that dates back to American Legion baseball. The NFL is in the throes of free agency beginning and Harbs is cracking jokes with the media about being aggressive on the base paths. Go figure.

FRIDAY

Back to reality where there was another fun story that occurred on Friday when the Mets’ Matt Harvey touched 99 on the gun in his first live game action in 17 months. 2 scoreless innings and 3 strikeouts vs the Tigers in his return from Tommy John surgery.

The White Sox top prospect, 22-year-old left-hander Carlos Rodon (2 IP, 1 H, 4 Ks) impressed vs the Padres. Performances like this will have him on the fast track to the South Side.

18-year-old Dodgers’ prospect Julio Urias is a left-hander who worked around 3 walks to record 2 strikeouts over 1.2 scoreless innings vs the Brewers. Urias dominated at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2014 and figures to develop further in the minors during 2015 before maybe stating his case for a roster spot with the big club in 2016.

SATURDAY

The pitcher Chris Young signed with the Royals for 1-year. Young was the AL Comeback Player of the Year in 2014 while pitching effectively for the Mariners. He starts as a swingman on the Kansas City depth chart.

The Rangers’ depth chart learned it would be getting a workout as what Ross Ohlendorf does on a mound might matter (2 IP, 0 ER, 5K on Sunday vs Cubs). Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported Yu Darvish has been diagnosed with a sprained UCL. Darvish will now check with the Mets’ Dr. Altchek this week , but anybody who isn’t a doctor and has an opinion is guessing TJS is in Yu’s future.

Baseball America’s #1 prospect Kris Bryant hit his 1st spring HR for the Cubs. He figures to crush AAA pitching in Iowa until May and then it will be a race to see what happens first – Bryant arriving on campus or the centerfield bleachers at Wrigley being finished.

SUNDAY

Alex Rodriguez had a bloop ground rule double to shallow right field that kicked up the chalk and bounced into the stands. Rodriguez played third base and successfully defended a ground ball at The BOSS. Yes, Michael Kay referred to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa as The BOSS. Joe Girardi confirmed during the YES network broadcast that Masahiro Tanaka will make his first spring start on Thursday against the Braves. No word on when the MRI on Tanaka’s right elbow will be scheduled after the game. He opted for the nonsurgical approach after suffering a partial tear of his UCL last July. Tanaka came back to make two appearances last September, the 2nd of which was in the UH-OH category. Tanaka has reportedly felt good this spring and threw one of those simulated games on Saturday.

The Houston Astros closed out the weekend with a reminder that whether it’s March or October anything can and will happen in baseball. A 20-hit attack defeated the Tigers 14-9, but then their split squad – consisting of Jose Altuve, Colby Rasmus, Chris Carter, and Jason Castro – got no-hit by nine Atlanta Braves pitchers in a 2-2 ten inning tie. Cody Martin went the first two-innings, followed by Jim Johnson, Josh Outman, Brandon Cunniff, Ian Thomas, Mauricio Cabrera, Lucas Sims, Justin Jackson, and Jario Heredia all pitching no hit innings. A couple walks turned into a couple runs for the Astros on a couple groundouts in the 7th inning in case you were curious.