Didi Gregorius: Never stop learning

NEW YORK -- For the past 20 years, the New York Yankees have had a true member of baseball royalty at shortstop.

But Derek Jeter has nothing over his replacement, who revealed Friday in his first interview with reporters who cover the Yankees that the proper way to address him is "Sir Didi Gregorius."

The subject came up when a reporter noted that Gregorius -- who was acquired by the Yankees from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-way trade that cost them Shane Greene -- uses "Sir Didi Gregorius" as his Twitter handle. Asked if that was a facetiously self-bestowed title or an actual knighthood, Gregorius said: "No, it's not a nickname. I actually got knighted a couple of years ago."

Gregorius said the knighthood was bestowed in lieu of payment for him and other members of a national baseball team that won a championship in Curacao.

"Instead of giving us money, they decided to just knight us, all the guys that had a clean record," he said.

And it appeared that Sir Didi does not take his honor all that lightly.

"Some people actually call me Sir Didi and everything," he said. "[But] I don't really mind if they just call me Didi. It doesn't really matter."

All that will matter to Yankees fans, of course, is the way the anointed successor to Jeter at shortstop plays this season. In parts of three big league seasons with the Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds, Gregorius -- who has the reputation of being an outstanding defensive shortstop -- is a .243 lifetime hitter with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs in 549 at-bats.

Gregorius, a left-handed hitter, has struggled mightily against left-handers, hitting just .184 with no home runs against them, raising the possibility the Yankees will platoon him at short with Brendan Ryan.

"Actually, I think I need to improve in everything," Gregorius said. "For me, I don't want to [start] thinking I know everything because I love working hard. I'm still working because every day's a new day to learn something and you have to keep learning to get better."

Gregorius said he wasn't sure what to expect from Yankees fans who had become accustomed to seeing No. 2 at shortstop nearly every day, with just a couple of gaps for injury, since 1996.

"I have to wait until I get there and then I'll find out how they're going to treat me," he said. "But I have some good comments on Twitter saying, just be you, don't worry about what other people are saying, blah, blah, blah, so I think they are supporting without even knowing how I play the game when I go over there. So I think I have the fans' support."

It also didn't hurt that Gregorius, who likes to draw to relax, posted a sketch he did of Jeter on his Twitter account this past season.

"For me, he's the captain, he's always been a captain with a lot of respect for the game, and he said he's going to retire and everything, so I decided to draw a picture of him," Gregorius said.

Asked for his favorite memory of seeing Jeter play, Gregorius spoke in general terms: "The clutch hitting. Going [opposite] almost every time. I can't remember which game it was that he hit an opposite [field] home run, and I think they went to the next game or something, but you know, it's really good when you see him play and his signature move, that jump throw to first. That's really awesome."

Understandably, he was a lot more specific when it came to his own favorite Sir Didi Gregorius Yankee Stadium memory.

"I remember it was my first at-bat in the big leagues after an injury, against Phil Hughes," he said "First-pitch fastball, I jumped on it and hit a home run."

That was on April 18, 2013, and it was Gregorius' first big league home run in a game the Diamondbacks went on to win 6-4 in 12 innings.

No one in Yankee Stadium was calling Gregorius "Sir" that day, but if he hits enough of those in pinstripes, you just never know.