Yankees’ Juan Soto feeling ‘at home’ ahead of season opener


On the eve of the New York Yankees‘ season opener at Minute Maid Park against the Houston Astros, manager Aaron Boone had a simple directive for his new slugger: It’s your team, too.

Asked how Juan Soto will fit into a team with Aaron Judge as the acknowledged superstar and Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton entrenched as veteran leaders, Boone said on a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday, “My message to him is: It’s his clubhouse, too, and we want to learn and grow from you and want you to feel empowered to say and do whatever you feel like you need to do.”

Acquired from the San Diego Padres in a blockbuster offseason trade, Soto brings his powerful bat, elite on-base ability and Soto Shuffle to a lineup that struggled to score runs in 2023. With the Padres, there were reports during the season as the team’s playoff hopes slowly disintegrated that some of the egos in the San Diego clubhouse — Soto, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. — had clashed, although Soto denied it late in the season.

“Look, anytime you’re a player coming over to a team for the first time, I’m sure you’re toeing the water a little bit, getting a feel for everything,” Boone said. “I do feel like the team from a bonding standpoint has come together really well this spring in short order. I would include Juan in that. He seems very comfortable, he seems happy. I think our leaders do a great job of making guys feel at home. From a leadership and what kind of vocal role he takes, that probably still remains to be seen.”

After a hot start to spring training, with three home runs in his first four games, Soto scuffled a bit toward the end. During the team’s trip to Mexico to wrap up spring training, Soto stayed behind in Tampa, Florida, at the team’s training facility to work on his swing.

“He didn’t get a ton of results here the last couple of weeks, which I often think with a hitter of his caliber isn’t such a bad thing from a timing standpoint,” Boone said. “Every hitter goes through little lulls at different points in the season, so hoping he got that out of the way here, but I think he’s ready to roll. He’s in a great mental state and I can’t wait to watch him go out and tear up the Bronx.”

The Yankees missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2016, putting Boone, the team’s skipper since 2018, squarely on the hot seat as the manager most likely to be fired first, according to oddsmakers.

“I’m here to try to win the World Series. All of my energy and all of my focus is on trying to help us be the best possible team we can be and our goal is to be a world champion,” Boone said. “I don’t look at like, ‘This has to happen for me to save my job.’ I’m in competition mode.'”

The season kicks off a series with a tough seven-game road trip to Houston and Arizona — and without the injured Gerrit Cole and DJ LeMahieu. In LeMahieu’s absence, Boone said Gleyber Torres will hit leadoff on Opening Day with Soto and Judge hitting second and third.


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