TAMPA, Fla. — Looks as if Aaron Judge will be a one-hit wonder when it comes to the Home Run Derby.
“I’m leaning toward not doing it,” he said Thursday morning. “One and done is good for me.”
Judge didn’t rule out participating again, but he strongly indicated his decision is final.
“I’m Home Run Derby champion, it was a cool experience, I enjoyed it all, but I don’t think I really need to go out there and do it again. I won it once,” said Judge, who hit a rookie-record 52 homers last year. He electrified the Marlins Park crowd, and players from both leagues on the sidelines, by hitting four homers that surpassed 500 feet.
Judge stumbled badly after the All-Star break, putting together a .179/.346/.344 slash line with seven homers and 16 RBIs in his next 44 games over nearly seven weeks. Many pointed to the Derby as the reason for the skid, which has become a cliché over the years. Judge, however, acknowledged early in camp this year that a balky left shoulder that would require arthroscopic surgery Nov. 21 bothered him more than he let on.
“Everyone always talks about the Derby will do that, but it really didn’t have an effect on that,” Judge said.
He did recover in September, hitting 15 homers and posting a 1.352 OPS.
Still, asked if the combination of the Derby and the shoulder, which he banged up in May, impacted his second-half slump, Judge said, “I’d rather not say.”
The shoulder got a test Thursday when Judge, tracking down Roman Quinn’s drive to the track in right, went left shoulder- first into the wall. “You kind of hold your breath there,” manager Aaron Boone said.
Judge batted the next inning and reached on a throwing error to finish 0-for-3, dropping him to 1-for-10. He was held out of the first five exhibition games — brought along slowly because of the surgery — but said the shoulder feels good.
“We’re right on track,” he said. “When I first got down here, there was still a little soreness left in there, but the past week especially, it’s pain-free, no soreness.”
Two others in the clubhouse participated in last year’s Home Run Derby. Giancarlo Stanton, then with the Marlins and the defending champion, was upset in the first round by Gary Sanchez. Neither has made up his mind about participating this July in Washington.
“Depends on how the season’s going, how the body’s feeling, if I’m an All-Star,” Stanton said.
Of Judge, Stanton said: “He should do whatever he wants. Shouldn’t have to be pressured into doing it if he doesn’t want to. He’s got plenty of years to do it, also. Sometimes people forget about the marathon of the season.”
Judge did not commit to the event until the last moment last year. Although it would be incorrect to say he was pressured to participate by Major League Baseball, it would not be wrong to say MLB, and its television partners, made it known they wanted him to compete and were thrilled that he did.
Asked Thursday about MLB possibly reaching out to him to reconsider, Judge said: “Even if they reached out, it’s up to me and my decision and what I think is best for me. But like I said, that’s the last thing on my mind right now is the Derby.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, aware of how MLB feels about executives offering contrarian opinions on its premier events, smiled when Judge’s comments were relayed to him.
“My job is to get as many Home Run Derby candidates as I can find,” Cashman said. “That’s all I’ll continue to do. How it plays out . . . every year is different.”
Aaron Judge’s production tailed off last season following his participation in the Home Run Derby. Comparing his first- and second-half numbers:
First HalfSecond Half