Yankees manager Girardi knows draft pick well

Yankees manager Joe Girardi got to know Dante Bichette Jr. long

before New York selected him with its first pick in the baseball

draft.

”There were times that we were on the road – when we were in

Chicago – we’d all stay at our house and little Dante sometimes had

a hard time going to sleep at night and we’d get in the car and

drive him around,” Girardi said of his late-night lullaby rides

with Colorado Rockies teammate Dante Bichette.

Now, Girardi could get a chance to guide the slugging

18-year-old as a budding big league ballplayer.

The Yankees took Bichette Jr., a third baseman like his dad, out

of Orangewood Christian High School in Maitland, Fla., with the

51st pick Monday night. The Yankees lost their first-round pick to

Tampa Bay as compensation for signing reliever Rafael Soriano.

”I still call him Uncle Joe,” Bichette Jr. said on a

conference call Tuesday, adding he ”might have to stop that.”

The Yankees would be ecstatic if little Dante turned out to be

as successful as his dad. The older Bichette was a four-time

All-Star with 274 career homers in 14 major league seasons.

The younger Bichette said he plays a lot like his dad, with the

same strengths and weaknesses. He said his dad really helps with

the baseball side of things.

”There’s no greater tool than my dad,” Bichette Jr. said.

Bichette Jr. has committed to the University of Georgia, but

hopes to sign quickly with the Yankees. That would be just fine

with Girardi, who played with the Bichette Jr.’s dad from 1993-95

for the expansion Rockies.

Girardi said he and Bichette became fast friends despite their

differences in personality – the families are so close Girardi

named his son Dante.

”He was more of a free spirit and everyone knows how I am,”

Girardi said with a laugh. ”But for whatever reason I found it

really enjoyable to be around him. We would work out together and

there were things we would do together. Little Dante was born

basically that first season and he was a wonderful little

kid.”

Bichette Jr. plans on working hard to stay a third baseman, but

with Alex Rodriguez signed through 2017, the youngster said playing

the outfield is a possibility, too.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Bichette Jr. batted .640 with 10 homers,

40 RBIs and 58 runs in 30 games as a senior this year. He was

ranked by Baseball America as the 15th-best high school player in

Florida.

”Dante is one of the guys in this draft we thought had an

impact bat and the potential to hit for big power in the middle of

the order,” said Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees vice president of

amateur scouting. ”He’s someone with an advanced makeup and work

ethic who possesses the desire and drive to be a special major

leaguer.”

AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.