TAMPA, Fla. — Considering that the Yankees’ owner already has weighed in on his preference, Aaron Judge’s take on the rightfield competition seems odd.
“I kind of feel like an underdog,” Judge said late Monday morning. “I was up in the big leagues for a month . . . so I’m trying to go out there and prove something and win that spot.”
Judge, 24, a first-round pick of the Yankees in 2013, made his big-league debut last Aug. 13, homering in his first career at-bat. But the 6-7, 275-pound rightfielder struggled after that, finishing the season with a .179/.263/.345 slash line, four homers and 10 RBIs. More concerning to many in the organization, he fanned 42 times in 84 at-bats, showing an inability to handle breaking pitches in the vast majority of those.
Still, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier this winter that his hope and expectation is that Judge will emerge from spring training as the starting rightfielder, a sentiment echoed by general manager Brian Cashman. If Judge falters, he’s likely to start the season in Triple-A, with Aaron Hicks nabbing the job.
“You just never want to get comfortable,” Judge said of his “underdog” comment. “You want to keep going in there and have a fire that you have to prove a point and you’re trying to win a job. It’s just a good attitude to have.”
As for fixing the strikeout problem, Judge said that despite a video making the rounds on social media suggesting otherwise, he did not change his swing in the offseason, specifically the elimination of a leg kick.
“Just some approach changes,” he said. “Just working on being consistent and being able to repeat the swing and repeat my mechanics.”
Three pitchers involved in the competition to win the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation — righthanders Luis Severino, Luis Cessa and Adam Warren — threw live batting practice sessions Monday. Throwing live BP at this stage is a likely indication of plans for them to be among the first pitchers to get starts in the exhibition season.