NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Chase Headley says it was especially tough battling through a brutal slump at the start of last season but that he’s glad he “was able to make it out the other side.”
The Yankees’ third baseman spoke candidly Wednesday with WFAN’s Mike Francesa about his ice-cold April, in which he batted .150 with no home runs and two RBIs. Headley recovered to finish the season with a .250 average, 14 home runs and 51 RBIs.
“I’ve been through some difficult times in my career, but I don’t remember any as difficult as that,” he said. “And then when you pair that with the fact that the team wasn’t playing well, it just made it even worse.
“I’ve got to be better from the start of the year,” Headley said.
With a younger cast of characters around him this season, Headley, 32, will be counted to provide veteran leadership. He said he’s planting the seeds in spring taining to be such a leader.
“I think you develop a relationship with them first, and then they respect you,” Headley said. “And when they respect you, then you’re able to give them both positive and negative feedback and they respond in the right way. That’s what spring training is about: getting to know these guys, getting them to understand that I’m here for them.”
Gary Sanchez is the face of the Yankees’ youth movement. Like most fans and players, Headley marveled at the young catcher’s historic start to his career, in which he belted 20 home runs in 53 games.
“I’ve seen some guys go on some runs and have a couple of really good months, but nobody that’s done it in the fashion that he has, meaning really his first couple of months in the big leagues, he was the best player ever,” Headley said.
“He’s tremendously talented. He’s working his butt off. So I don’t see any reason that we can’t expect him to have a great year. Obviously the expectations are sky high, and he’s not going to do what he did last year for six months. It’s just not going to happen. But I think he’s going to be a really good player for a long time here in New York, and he’s going to help us big time this year.”
Headley said he sees no reason why the Yankees can’t win now, despite their youth.
“You’ve seen it around the league with other teams that have brought up their young guys, and they’ve had a lot of success early,” he said. “We’re very confident that we can go out there and compete. Obviously, there are going to be some bumps, but I think we’re going to be just fine.”
To listen to the interview, click on the audio player above.