Bridges Ready To Get Going

TAMPA, FL - Entering his third season with the New York Yankees, 20-year-old Drew Bridges is more dedicated than ever to prove himself as a strong hitter and third baseman. He's reportedly been having a strong Extended Spring Training camp but now he's ready to get the official season going.

"I am ready to get going on the season," Bridges said. "I am ready to have all of these numbers really matter."

Bridges, a 20th round pick out of Carthage High School in Missouri two years ago, used to have a reputation as more of a pull-hitter in his younger days but this season he has already made drastic improvements using the entire field more to his advantage to achieve a lower strikeout rate.

According to hitting coach Edwar Gonzalez, Bridges has made huge steps in advancing his skills on both sides of the field, especially offensively.

"I’m proud of him and he deserves a lot of credit for his hard work,” Gonzalez said. “He impresses me because he practices hard every single day. We always saw the potential, but now he is executing it consistently and he deserves to be here or even higher actually."

In fact Gonzalez hopes to see Bridges in low-A Charleston by the end of this season because he has proven he is ready for that level of competition, but based upon what he has shown in both Spring Training and Extended Spring Training, he could be playing there right now.

"The things he does such as seeing more pitches, walking more, being more selective, and using the whole field, they are all characteristics of hitters in Charleston right now, so I think he is ready but it’s just a matter of a spot opening for him to go there,” Gonzalez said.

In comparison to last season, Bridges feels like he has improved his swing enormously because he is now able to get to the inside pitches faster since he can move more diligently.

“I feel like I came into Spring Training and did very well,” Bridges said. “I had a little trouble on defense, but I feel like I am swinging the bat real well and still putting up the numbers they want me to.”

Last season, Bridges had 65 strikeouts in 189 at bats, but so far in 2015 he has shortened his swing path to the ball and is putting more balls in play on a consistent basis in camp.

“He feels powerful. Anytime a hitter has built up their confidence, it’s going to show,” Gonzalez said.

With two short seasons behind him, Bridges is beginning this season with a new mindset. Despite talks of him having to move him to first base eventually and permanently, he is determined to prove he can play third base and hit for power consistently too.

"I feel like I am doing my job well," Bridges said. “Last year, I had a lot of ups and downs and didn’t start off too well, but I want to prove that I can be consistent year round as a third baseman for the New York Yankees."

Gonzalez agrees with Bridges’ wish to stay at third base and credits his hard work and daily dedication to the sport.

"He’s done a good job," Gonzalez said. "He’s working every day in agility work so he can move his feet better and he has proven that within his practices and games."

Bridges, who has just Gulf Coast League experience under his belt, a league not exactly known for their audiences, is also excited to play in front of a large fan base under the lights for the first time in his career.

"I’m from a small town in Missouri, so Tampa originally seemed like a pretty big place to me,” Bridges said. “But I like the big town feel and I’m excited to play in front of a lot of fans and have it feel like real baseball. I came straight from high school so I haven’t experienced that rush yet."

Though he has yet to experience that "real" feel of professional baseball, Bridges has certainly earned his stripes to this point. It's been nearly two years since his selection out of high school and he feels all of that experience behind the scenes has helped prepare him to be a better ball player going forward.

"The biggest thing I have learned is that it is a grind," Bridges said. “It’s extremely hard day in and day out. Down here, we are doing the same thing every day so it is hard to get your mind right the whole time, but I feel like I’m doing my job well."

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