Yankees’ catcher credits Josh Donaldson, coaching staff for early spring training success

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka
Jul 25, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; New York Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka (66) runs the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Boston Red Sox during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Yankees acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson alongside catcher Ben Rortvedt and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa a few weeks ago, they didn’t realize how much influence he had in a current member of the team, a few years ago.

Yankees’ catcher Kyle Higashioka is white hot during spring training play, with four homers in three games, and as it turns out, he modeled his swing after Donaldson’s back when he was a minor leaguer in 2015.

“I realized I couldn’t do the huge leg lift and all that stuff,” Higashioka said, to MLB.com. “But the underlying principles were all the same. Mechanically speaking, he kind of speaks the same language as me.”

So, when the Yankees brought in Donaldson, Higgy felt the need to reach out, as he looked to refine some things in his swing. The third baseman gave him some pointers, and those chats, plus some tips from the coaching staff and the work that the catcher put on during the offseason, are already delivering results in games.

The Yankees’ catcher wants to keep his swing in order

“I’m just trying to refine my approach a little bit and keep my swing in order,” the catcher said. “I’m having early success, but just hoping to carry it through into the season.”

Last year, Higashioka played 67 games for the Yankees, and despite a hot start, his .181 average and .389 slugging percentage were disappointing. He did hit 10 homers, and had an expected slugging percentage (by Statcast metrics) of .504. Bottom line? He got unlucky.

“He’s got power,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone explained. “He works hard at his hitting, and he doesn’t want to just be known as a great defensive catcher, but he wants to do his thing offensively, too.

“That power is in there. It’s just about being a little more consistent. That’s where, we’ll see. … He’s going to have more opportunities now to prove himself on a consistent basis. I know he’s relishing that opportunity.”