Latest Yanks star arrives for spring training wearing T-shirt saying: ‘The generational Juan Soto’

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Juan Soto gave some new meaning to pride of the Yankees.

On his first day with his new team, the 25-year-old star outfielder walked into a news conference in the tent behind third base wearing a navy T-shirt with white print that proclaimed: “The generational Juan Soto.”

“When you’re really good, it’s easy to have that confidence,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Monday. “The resume that he has is pretty remarkable.”

Soto’s prediction for his production in a lineup alongside 2022 AL MVP Aaron Judge was as bold as the type on his chest.

“It’s going to be two walks or it’s going to be two gappers,” Soto said.

A three-time All-Star, Soto was acquired from San Diego on Dec. 6 along with outfielder Trent Grisham for four pitchers and catcher Kyle Higashioka. Soto hit .275 with 35 homers, 109 RBIs and a .930 OPS in his only full season with the Padres, leaving him with a .284 average, 160 homers, 483 RBIs and a .946 OPS in six major league seasons that included a 2019 World Series title with Washington.

Soto is eligible for free agency after the World Series, so it’s unclear whether he will become a longtime pinstriper like Lou Gehrig, subject of the 1942 movie “The Pride of the Yankees.”

Boone had a conversation with Soto on Monday to ease the transition.

“As great a player as he is, and as much respect as he carries, still the new kid at the first day of school,” the manager said.

Soto turned down a $440 million, 15-year offer from Washington, betting he would gain a better deal as a free agent after the 2024 season. The Nationals dealt him to San Diego in August 2022 and the Padres traded him as part of payroll cuts under new controlling owner Eric Kutsenda after missing the playoffs.

“You put the pressure on yourself,” Soto said, “and at the end of the day I just try to throw that away and go out there and play baseball, just try to show what I have and try my best.”

Boone had guided a star in a similar position two years ago when Judge set an AL record with 62 home runs, went to free agency and agreed to a $360 million, nine-year contract with New York.

“I don’t think there’s any way to not be aware of it as a player,” Boone explained, adding “uber-focused attention to detail” can boost performance “but also that can get in their way a little bit, the pressure of that.”

Born in the Dominican Republic, Soto looked forward to playing with the Yankees, who have a significant Latino fan base.

“It’s going to be electric,” he said. “It’s going to feel like home.”

Boone compared him with Barry Bonds.

“Barry Bonds would get pitched around all weekend long and the one pitch that showed up in the strike zone, he’d hit it in the McCovey Cove,” Boone said.

Soto praised Robinson Canó, an eight-time All-Star second baseman who played for the Yankees from 2005-13 and was Soto’s Dominican teammate at last year’s World Baseball Classic.

“That’s the guy who I followed since I was a little kid and a guy I want to be like,” Soto said.

Soto has four homers in six career games and 23 at-bats in Yankee Stadium. He reminded himself not to let the ballpark impact his swing.

“Definitely don’t go crazy with a short porch in right field,” he said.

Soto is letting agent Scott Boras deal with contract talks. Most Boras clients in their prime wait until after becoming free agents to negotiate deals.

“I just let Scott do it,” Soto said. “He’s tough. I have a lot of trust in him and what he’s going to do.”

CARLOS RODÓN THROWS

After missing much of last season because of injuries, Carlos Rodón threw 44 pitches of one-field batting practice. Rodón shaved his mustache and lost weight, leading to better movement on the mound,

“That’s something that was noticeable to us,” Boone said. “In a lot of ways he looks like a different guy.”

GLEYBER’S MUSTACHE

While Rodón eliminated facial hair, second baseman Gleyber Torres added some whiskers.

“I’m not totally on the mustache,” Boone said.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB

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