After Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez announced Monday that they will compete in the Home Run Derby next week, Judge said they will treat the contest like regular batting practice. That should be enough to ensure an eye-popping show.
That is the informed judgment of the people who know best — the Yankees teammates who watch the two players hit balls far beyond fences before every game.
“It’s must-watch TV. Every day,” said Dellin Betances, who also will be among the five (or possibly six) Yankees at the All-Star Game in Miami next week.
During daily batting practice, Betances and fellow pitchers are assigned to roam the outfield and shag fly balls.
“For me, we take turns on what times we shag,’’ Betances said. “Some guys go out for the first half, some guys go out for the second half. I try to make sure I’m always out there for Judge because I’m just trying to see where that ball is going to land.
“That’s what’s going to happen in the Home Run Derby. Everyone is excited. Obviously, this guy is a monster. I think both of those guys are impressive and I think the fans are going to get a fun show to watch.”
Pitcher Luis Severino, another of the Yankees All-Star representatives, said: “I think it’s fun to go shag with them because there are no balls on the field. They’re all in the stands.”
Second baseman Starlin Castro, the other Yankee named to the American League team, said he will attend the All-Star Game even if his strained right hamstring will not allow him to play.
“It’s going to be awesome. I’m going to be on the field, supporting my teammates,” he said, noting that he usually is in the same batting-practice group as the two young sluggers.
“I’ve never seen anybody hit the ball like that. I enjoy every single moment those guys hit the ball like a joke,” he said, adding that, like his teammates, he hopes Didi Gregorius gains the final spot in a vote of fans.
Of course, Judge and San chez are in the Midsummer Classic because of how they hit during games, not just before them. Entering last night, Judge led the majors with 27 home runs. Sanchez hit 33 home runs in his first 100 games, tied for second in major-league history (behind Mark McGwire).
Fellow Yankees were careful to say they will remain determinedly neutral. Sanchez and Judge both mentioned what an honor it is to be going to the All-Star Game together after having been teammates in the minors and majors for parts of the past four seasons. They both will have the same pitcher, Danilo Valiente, the former coach in Cuba who successfully begged the Yankees for a job several years ago and throws batting practice every day.
Both dearly want to finish first. “I’m going out there to compete. If I win, I win. if I don’t, I want Judge to win,” Sanchez said through a translator.
Judge, sitting beside Sanchez during a news conference, said: “We’re going to root each other on, but this is competition. That’s what’s going to make it even more enjoyable for both of us.”
Betances said: “I’m going to root for both of those guys. Hopefully, they both get to the final round. A battle between Judge and San chez. That would be fun.”