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Aaron Judge prepping for likely All-Star Game starting spot

He is the third AL outfielder and close to 900,000 votes ahead of the fourth-place contender with voting ending Thursday night.

Aaron Judge greats his AL All-Star Game teammates

Aaron Judge greats his AL All-Star Game teammates at Marlins Park on July 11, 2017 in Miami, Florida. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mark Brown

Washington is rife with group activities for the Yankees’ All-Stars to consider. They can tour the Smithsonian or stroll around the National Mall. Or they can sit back, relax a little, and enjoy getting to know all the other All-Stars set to descend upon the nation’s capital in a little more than a week.

Because even though the most recent All-Star balloting indicated that only Aaron Judge will start for the Yankees, no one thinks he isn’t going to have his fair share of pinstriped company. Least of all Judge himself.

“We could have our whole starting nine starting,” he said jokingly, but not really. “There’s a lot of talented players around the league, and we’ve got quite a bit of talent in this room. I know there are going to be quite a few guys in this room that will make the roster.”

As of Thursday morning, Judge was comfortably slotted into the third outfielder’s spot, a little less than 900,000 votes ahead of his closest competition, the Astros’ George Springer. But despite their startling talent, no one else on the Yankees — including Giancarlo Stanton, who’s in second place at designated hitter, but more than a million behind the Red Sox’s J.D. Martinez — is all that close. Gary Sanchez, who’s out with a groin injury, is second to the Rays’ Wilson Ramos by about 400,000 votes. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, and the team will be announced Sunday.

But Aaron Boone couldn’t help but grin when told his team likely will have only one fan-voted All-Star. The team actually has already made plans for the various other Yankees likely to be summoned by American League manager A.J. Hinch.

“We were actually talking about guys who might make it on our team and guys that are certainly in that conversation, and we have a number of those players,” Boone said. “Hopefully, we’ll be well represented. We certainly have deserving guys. We’ll see how the next week unfolds, but I’m hopeful we send a good amount of fellas to D.C.”

Luis Severino, with the lowest ERA in the league, is a lock and could start the game, and closer Aroldis Chapman is an easy pick. Miguel Andujar is third at third base, about 1 million votes behind the Indians’ Jose Ramirez. Gleyber Torres, a front-runner for Rookie of the Year, is second among second basemen but well behind the overall leading vote-getter, the Astros’ Jose Altuve. But Torres strained his hip Wednesday and was placed on the 10-day disabled list. The break will allow him some time to recover, Boone said.

“It never gets old, you know?” Judge said. “The coolest thing for me is getting to play with a lot of guys I grew up watching on TV and then being a part of it. I’m an All-Star with them. It’s kind of crazy for me — especially, I grew up in California, so I was a Giants fan, and then you get the chance to go to an All-Star Game and hit with the catcher being Buster Posey, who I watched for years. It was a pretty surreal moment for me.”

Judge probably will get a repeat appearance — at least with Posey, who’s leading all National League catchers, though only by a slim margin.

Though Judge insisted none of this gets old, he doubled down Wednesday on his decision to skip the Home Run Derby. Judge, whose 24 homers are two behind MLB leader Martinez, won the derby last year. Judge is part of the increasingly growing group of sluggers choosing to eschew the tournament. After second-half struggles last year, Judge repeatedly had to field questions about whether the derby messed with his swing. He insisted it did not, and instead it turned out he was playing with an injured left shoulder, which was surgically repaired in the offseason.

“It was fun and I enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a cool experience and great for the fans, but we’ve got something special going on here and I just want to stay healthy.”

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