When the Yankees’ slate of spring training games begin next week, the gates to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa will open earlier than in previous years for fans to watch batting practice in its entirety.
However, the crowds may not see Aaron Judge taking monstrous swings early on.
During a press conference Wednesday in Tampa, the 25-year-old outfielder discussed his offseason shoulder surgery, reluctantly admitting that his left wing could cause him to miss a few spring games.
“Shoulder feels good. I feel like we’re right on schedule with the progression we kind of set out after the surgery,” Judge said. “But with that, even though it feels good, the games that matter are in April. So if I miss a couple games — which I probably will early in spring — I’d rather miss those games than miss games starting at the end of March, early April. So I think we’re on the right track. Everything is working out the way it’s supposed to be and I’m looking forward to getting everything rolling.
“I’m just starting BP right now. I’ve been doing a lot of cage work, tee and [soft] toss, working into BP and just starting BP actually today. So here in the next couple days, once position players get here, I’ll be full-BP, outside and everything and good to go.”
“He’s good, I think it’s just a matter of wanting to take it slow,” Boone said. “I don’t need him getting three at-bats on February whatever. We’ll just be smart in how we go about it. There’s time to where he can get those regular at-bats to be in a place where we need him to be when we break camp at the end of next month.”
Whether or not Judge’s participation in last summer’s Home Run Derby caused the damage to his shoulder, the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP-runner-up told reporters that issues came after the All-Star break. However, he still felt comfortable enough to play while the team was competing for a playoff spot.
“It came down to can you play, and I could play,” Judge said. “You know, July, August, everyone’s going through something. No one’s 100-percent. You could ask everybody in that clubhouse, they were kind of banged up. So, if I was able to play, I was going to go out there and be ready for my team.
“I felt it’d be best to do [surgery] in the offseason, just cause of where we were at in the season. We were fighting, we were there around first place in our division, fighting for that playoff spot. I wanted to be out there for the team… It’s something we can handle in the offseason and I felt like the offseason we’ve got a couple months to either rehab some stuff or do surgery was the best timing for me and the team.”
“I wanted to be out there for the team.”
Aaron Judge explains why he waited until the offseason to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder. pic.twitter.com/9x1306wbqt
Judge, who only missed seven regular season games in 2017, doesn’t believe his injury history will change his style of play moving forward.
“I never want to play timid or scared of everything — especially when my pitcher or my teammates are out there going 100-percent,” he said. “I want to make sure I’m a full 100-percent, so that’s running into walls, running into the stands. I’m still going to do that. There’s nothing really you can do. It’s freak stuff like that, running into the wall. I don’t want to run into the wall, but if I’ve got to make a play for my team, I’m going to run through a wall for them. Nothing you can try to prevent or protect, to be honest.”
Injuries aside, Judge is eager to take swings in the cage alongside Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees’ newly acquired slugger. While the two were in New York for the BBWAA Awards dinner on Jan. 28, Judge said that the reigning NL MVP was excited to head down to Tampa and start working. The two behemoths combined for 111 home runs last season.
“We’re in here to win it. We already have a great team, but adding Stanton and couple other pieces, we’re going to be great,” said Judge, who hit .284 with 52 homers and 114 RBI a year ago. “Being around Stanton so far, he’s ready for New York. He’s ready to be here. He’s going to fit right into this team. We already have a good core group of young guys and he’s going to fit right into it, I can already tell. Just by his demeanor, he’s here to win. That’s all I really hear him talking about. He’s here to win. It’s going to be a fun thing we’ve got here.
“I’m just excited to pick his brain a little bit about mechanics, his approach. He’s seen a lot of guys in the league, but him coming to the AL East now, it’s going to be a little bit different. So, he’ll have a chance to pick my brain about certain pitchers, I’ll get a chance to pick his brain about certain pitchers. It’s going to be nice having another big guy in the clubhouse.”
Although the Yankees’ offense is projected to be lethal this year, Judge is once again ignoring the critics and their lofty expectations.
“I feel like there’s always room to improve,” Judge said. “I try not to listen to people when they try to put a label on somebody as that was their best season of that was their worst season. For me, I don’t know. And that’s what kind of motivates me. How good can you be? How great can someone be? And that’s what motivates me to come in here early and get my work in and try to improve.
“There’s little things with my swing I need to improve on. Base running-wise, quick first step. Outfield-wise, same thing, quick first step so I can make some more plays in the gap. So for me, it’s just always trying to improve. It was a fun last year. A lot of fun. A lot of ups and downs and things I need to improve on. Just trying to get better this year, trying to build off last year.”
Aaron Judge discusses whether he can improve on his remarkable 2017 Rookie of the Year season. pic.twitter.com/uTISquDL83