After today’s game, the Yankees announced that Slade Heathcott, Nik Turley and Gary Sanchez have been optioned to minor league camp (Heathcott and Turley to Triple-A; Sanchez to Double-A). I happened to talk to Heathcott a little bit pregame, so here’s a small update on the center field prospect.
Slade Heathcott showed up in the Yankees clubhouse this morning wearing a bright green t-shirt. As far as I can tell, that’s been the loudest thing about him all spring. After knee surgery late last season, 23-year-old Heathcott has been in full rehab mode in spring training. If you didn’t know he was a first-round pick, still full of potential, he’d be easy to overlook completely.
“The more I worry about other things, the less I take from right now and focusing on what I need to do,” Heathcott said. “… (That sort of approach) has just become a goal of mine the last couple of years. We let emotions get to us sometimes. That’s the game. We love the game (when we’re) playing, and we’re all competitive, and sometimes it gets the best of us. But I think the key is, stay even-keel. You look at guys like Jeter and even Pettitte and Mo, guys like that who have been so good in this game for so long. Every day they’re always — their emotion level, playing level — everything is always the same.”
Heathcott acknowledges that wasn’t always his approach. In fact, he laughs when asked if that’s the way he went about things when he was drafted out of high school. Just last year he responded quite differently when he hit .191 in the month of April. That slow start never truly turned around until after the All-Star break. Heathcott hit .279/.339/.514 in 111 second-half at-bats before the knee injury cut his season short in mid-August
“Mainly just stopped being a mental midget,” Heathcott said. “The beginning of the year, at first it wasn’t a big deal. Then the slump started. Then I started trying to make up for everything with one swing and started trying to do too much. So I just slowed everything down. I tried to get better pitch selection. Trying to do everything in one pitch got me impatient. I’d chase balls. That’s never the key to a good thing.”
So Heathcott’s not chasing this spring. He doesn’t think he’ll be active when the regular season starts, but he doesn’t expect to be far behind. Mostly, he said he’s not worrying about it. His knee has good days and bad days, but most of the days have been good and encouraging lately. Heathcott’s been playing catch and hitting tee and toss, and although he said other people have asked for the details of his progression — when he’ll begin fielding drills, when he’ll face live pitching, when he’ll get in a game — Heathcott said he honestly doesn’t know. He’s never asked. Just shows up and does what he’s told day by day.
That’s become his approach — or at the very least, he’s working on making that his approach — to everything from rehab to player development to the fact that the Yankees just signed a pair of left-handed outfielders to long-term deals, potentially blocking his own path to the big leagues.
“I know me looking forward is not going to do me any good,” Heathcott said. “As much as we’d like to look and say how great (a certain scenario) would be, it’s not going to do me any good if I don’t control right now. I just try to show up, be consistent — attitude, work, everything I can be — to be as consistent as possible. And hopefully, in the end, that works.”
Associated Press photo