Alex Cora raved about Nick Yorke after the 18-year-old impressed in his Spring Training debut

"That was the highlight of the day, having that kid play."

Red Sox manager Alex Cora fist bumps with 18-year-old Nick Yorke.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora fist bumps with 18-year-old Nick Yorke. –Jim Davis/Globe Staff

When Alex Cora told 18-year-old Nick Yorke before Monday’s Spring Training game against the Atlanta Braves that Yorke would see action at second base, Yorke opted to play it cool.

“I asked him, ‘Are you nervous?’” the Red Sox manager Cora said. “He’s like, ‘Nope.’ I said, ‘OK, good for you.’ I was probably more nervous for him, so that’s a good sign.”

Yorke, who took the field for the final three innings of Boston’s 7-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves, was as collected on the field as he was off it. He hit an opposite-field single in his first at-bat, off elite reliever A.J. Minter, then he walked in his second plate appearance.

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“That was the highlight of the day, having that kid play,” Cora said.

The Red Sox received some criticism when they selected Yorke 17th overall in the 2020 MLB Draft, but Yorke lost 25 pounds, hit with Mitch Haniger of the Seattle Mariners, took part in a two-week crash course in Pawtucket on how to be a professional, and was invited to play with the Red Sox in Spring Training.

Initially, Yorke – who just graduated high school last spring and turns 19 in April – thought the Red Sox were messing with him when he got the call. They weren’t, and he’s quickly embraced the opportunity. While he’s only played in one game, he’s already done plenty to impress those around him.

“He’s here to learn,” Cora told reporters. “He’s here to be around big-leaguers and learn how to act in the clubhouse and be a professional, but you can see, he controlled the strike zone, controlled his at-bats.”

While it’s highly unlikely Yorke will be on the Opening Day roster, he does have a chance to continue to make a strong first impression at Spring Training. It’s possible that a solid showing could accelerate his long-term chances of making the Red Sox.

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He echoed Cora’s remarks afterward that he wasn’t nervous in his debut, noting that it’s baseball, and he’s simply excited to play the game he loves.

Yorke said he’s trying to “be a sponge” and learn as much as he can from the more seasoned players around him. His goal is to get back in a rhythm after going a year without competitive baseball, and he’s hoping to prove himself on a grander stage than he’s had before.

He said he won’t complain about having the chance to play baseball as a career at age 18.

“Any opportunity they give me to touch a baseball field, I’m going to try to run away with it,” Yorke said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity and just trying to get better.”

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