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Jesus Bastidas, working on his game in Extended Spring Training, says he's excited for the short-season leagues.

TAMPA - Entering his second season with the Yankees organization, 18-year-old shortstop Jesus Bastidas is fighting a battle to stay consistent in his game and says he's excited to work on that aspect of his game once the short-season leagues open up later this month.

After signing with the Yankees at 17 years old, Bastidas moved from Venezuela and played his first season of professional baseball in Dominican Republic with the Yankees. Bastidas did as well as one would expect a first-year shortstop to do, hitting .247 over 57 games with 22 RBI’s and one home run.

Bastidas said, through a translator, that last year's debut season was a big learning experience, and is ready to improve every day going forward.

“It was a good year, but I feel like I could have done a better job,” Bastidas said. “One of the biggest things I learned was to be a better leader and have a more effective approach at the plate.”

Bastidas did not arrive in the United States this year until after Spring Training had ended but his hitting coach, Francisco Leandro, said he can already see the improvement in the short time he has been back with the club.

“He’s a different player compared to last year,” Leandro said. “As a hitting coach, you can see the results he is making in every at-bat.”

Another thing Bastidas is working on is his leadership ability. As a shortstop, he is naturally looked at as a leader on the diamond. Even at such a young age Bastidas recognizes the importance of that role.

“You have to read all the batters and [place your teammates] in an appropriate position,” Bastidas said.

Leandro also added that he’s not just a leader on the field, but also off of it.

“He is much more vocal and talks a lot more,” the hitting coach said. “His attitude is different and the way he approaches the game is different [than last year].”

In the short time Bastidas has been in Extended Spring Training here in Tampa, he can feel the strides he is making at the plate. Bastidas said all of his at bats feel more productive than ever before.

But he realizes that baseball is not only an offensive sport. Defensive ability is paramount to playing shortstop. Bastidas has also been working at second and third base too, but he said his biggest goal is  to improve defensively.

“I need to be quicker in my decision-making on defense,” Bastidas admitted.  “I have to position myself better so I can be in a better position to throw guys out.”

Since Bastidas arrived in Tampa after the normal Spring Training had already ended, some would have a hard time getting to know teammates and creating a chemistry in such a short window. Bastidas said he is lucky because he has not faced any issues bonding with his new baseball brothers.

“No, not at all,” Bastidas said when asked if it was tough fitting in. “I’ve played with a lot of these guys in the Dominican Republic.”

Bastidas is a relatively small player, standing only 5-foot-10 and 145 pounds when he signed. Leandro said in his first year with the organization he didn’t make a lot of gains physically, but expects a big leap over this next offseason.

“You’ll see that next year,” Leandro said. “The second year they always tend to get more strength and get bigger. We’re talking about an 18-year-old guy that’s still going to grow.”

Something that a lot of prospects coming over and playing on a big stage in the US struggle with is the new atmosphere in large stadiums that they’re not used to.

Bastidas said when he gets to that stage he is not worried, he just focuses on the game one pitch at a time.

“It’s the same baseball, it doesn’t matter where you play it at,” Bastidas said. “I’m just real excited to get the season going.”


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