CLEARWATER, Fla. — Hal Steinbrenner has said he expects Aaron Judge to be the Yankees’ everyday right fielder in 2017.
As far as his performance this spring is concerned: So far, so good.
Judge nailed an opposite-field homer off Phillies lefty Adam Morgan in the sixth inning of the Yankees’ 5-0 Grapefruit League victory on Friday. It was his second homer of the spring. The 24-year-old is currently triple-slashing .346/.433/.654.
Judge, who has had several two-strike hits this spring, took Morgan deep on a 1-2 pitch.
“I don’t want to get into two-strike counts,” Judge said. “But once I get there I just want to battle and put something in play. Good things happen when you put the bat on the ball.”
Putting the bat on the ball was something Judge struggled with after his promotion last season, striking out 42 times in 84 at-bats.
But Judge has said he looked at 2016 as a practice test. Now, he’s adapting and improving as he gets more familiar with the league.
The same thing happened at the minor-league level for him. First came the struggles. Then came the success.
“It just all goes back to me getting into my back hip, and when I control that and I’m in my legs, it helps me keep my bat in the zone longer,” said Judge, who uses a leg kick as a timing mechanism. “It allows me to stay through pitches better and drive the ball to right better.”
Judge, who has also played terrific defense in right, is competing against Aaron Hicks for the starting spot. Judge isn’t worried about the possible pressure that comes with his owner’s praise, instead focusing on having consistent and quality at-bats.
“That’s all I can do,” Judge said. “I’m trying to take a job. The moment you get comfortable wherever you’re at, you stop growing and you stop getting better as a player.”
Joe Girardi doesn’t plan on making a decision on the position anytime soon. Brian Cashman has said Judge would go back to Triple-A if he doesn’t win the job so he can continue to get regular at-bats. But the organization hopes it doesn’t come to that.
“I don’t know. I have until April 2, right?” Girardi said. “I think it’s fair to take it to the end. I think they’re both playing pretty well. Hicks is playing well, too (two homers). So we’ll continue to evaluate as we go.”
Judge has certainly stood out.
“He’s handled everything pretty well,” Girardi said of Judge. “He’s had a pretty good spring and he’s making adjustments, which is nice to see.”
Published at Fri, 10 Mar 2017 22:19:51 +0000