The New York Yankees added another starter to the injured list Tuesday and it opened the door for a longtime farmhand to get the call.
RailRiders first baseman Mike Ford was promoted to New York after Greg Bird went down with a left plantar fascia tear. To make room for Ford on the 40-man roster, the Yankees shifted Jacoby Ellsbury to the 60-day injured list.
“I knew last night, but I just couldn’t say anything,” Ford said Tuesday. “The move hadn’t come out yet or anything. Jay (Bell, RailRiders manager) kind of pulled me in the office. All the coaches were there. It was awesome, man. A lot of those coaches have been around for a long time, so it was great to hear it around them.”
Ford told some of his buddies in the club house, then started down the list of family members to call. Since the news went public, he’s gotten many more texts.
Ford, 26, is hitting .410 with a .467 on-base percentage and a .897 slugging percentage in 10 games with the RailRiders this year. He has four doubles, five home runs, 14 RBIs and has only struck out seven times in 39 at-bats. Even after an 0-for-5 night against Lehigh Valley on Monday — it snapped a nine-game hitting streak — Ford’s OPS (1.364) was still more than 150 points better than the player in second. He also had a three-homer game against Buffalo.
Mike Ford’s second double of the night. He’s 13 for 28 this season, with three doubles, four home runs and three walks. pic.twitter.com/HICfpRC5ur
— Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) April 12, 2019
Mike Ford with his second base hit of the night. Beats the shift on this ground ball. pic.twitter.com/RVFvGaZyN4
— Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) April 10, 2019
Mike Ford’s third home run carried over the stadium’s outer fence, landed on a driveway between the fence and that parking garage. pic.twitter.com/mBv3qtTxfu
— Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) April 7, 2019
“He is ghost pepper right now. That guy is ghost pepper,” longtime big leaguer Gio Gonzalez said after Sunday’s game, when Ford went 2 for 3 with a homer and a double. “He’s just scorching hot. He’s huge. He’s huge for us. That’s another one: Send him up already. Get him out of here. He just has an approach and that’s all you can ask for, and not only that he has an apporach, he’s hitting the hell out of the ball. So, I think that he needs to get out of here already. He needs to go.”
The Bell Mead, New Jersey, native has been in the Yankees system since signing as a nondrafted free agent out of Princeton on July 17, 2013. He’s played 561 games in the minors and has a career .813 OPS and almost as many walks (310) as strikeouts (325). The Seattle Mariners picked him up in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft and he had a typical Mike Ford spring training with them: Seven doubles, two home runs, 10 walks, 10 strikeouts and 10 RBIs. Still, the Mariners elected to send him back to the Yankees.
“I’d be lying if I said at times that, no I didn’t think it would come,” Ford said of being called up. “It’s a matter of just waiting my turn. This is where I’ve always wanted to be. It’s the team I rooted for growing up. It’s pretty crazy. It kind of came full circle. The opportunity last year in Seattle didn’t really work out. And now maybe something better does with a little bit more patience and a little bit more time.”
He said he grew up a Yankees fan, and that he had a lot of favorite players since “they won like every year back then so it was pretty easy to like them all.” He did point out Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter as having an edge over the rest.
This season, Ford has talked about how happy he is with his approach, taking things one pitch at a time. He says he’s been rolling with the philosophy of trying to put a good swing on a good pitch.
“If you are in a good spot mentally, which he is, you certainly can do some good things,” Bell said Sunday. “The thing that you have to be real careful about is feeling too good about yourself and you neglect going pitch by pitch and having that mindset of pitch by pitch, something bad happens, it’s over, something good happens, it’s over. Let’s get to the next pitch, next pitch, next pitch. We watched the Masters today — and of course I didn’t see the final — but I was watching Tiger and that’s one of his big things is going shot, by shot, by shot. It’s the same correlation. If you have that mindset, that good or bad, when it’s over, it’s over. And you go on to the next.”
Frank C. Lauri / Contributing photographer