ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Aaron Judge said he can’t imagine a circumstance that would cause him to charge the mound.
“Not really,” the 6-7, 282-pound Judge said. “I don’t think I would get to that point, to be honest.”
It’s safe to say that pitchers around the majors breathed a collective sigh of relief at the news.
The topic came up after the Yankees’ 9-5 loss to the Rays on Saturday, a game in which Judge was on the receiving end of a pitch that had all appearances of being retaliatory.
Tommy Layne hit Corey Dickerson, who homered in his first two at-bats, in the back between the shoulders with one on and one out in the fifth inning with an 87-mph pitch. (In the top half of the inning, Matt Andriese hit Matt Holliday after Gary Sanchez homered.)
Judge led off the top of the sixth and Andriese hit him in the ribs with his first pitch, a 90-mph fastball. Andriese immediately was ejected by plate umpire Scott Barry, who had a busy afternoon.
“I was pretty surprised,” Andriese told reporters afterward. “I didn’t know that there were warning or anything like that, so I was just going about my business the right way, making a pitch inside, and that was it.”
Judge, who homered and doubled off Andriese in his first two at-bats, simply walked to first base.
“I really didn’t think much of it,” Judge said. “I know that Tommy was pitching, a sinker got away and got Dickerson, and you know, it’s baseball. You know it’s going to happen, they’re going to get guys, and I was the one that got hit and it’s just part of it. It’s part of the game.”
Rob Thomson, who filled in for Joe Girardi on Friday night while the manager attended his daughter’s high school graduation, did not use Sanchez as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing by a run. Afterward, Thomson said only that his desire was to “stay away” from Sanchez, except for an emergency.
Late Saturday morning, Girardi expounded on that.
“We were trying to stay away from him because he had a stiff neck,” Girardi said, noting that the catcher showed up at the ballpark Friday feeling the effects of it. “We could have used him if we had to, but we were trying to stay away from him because we wanted him to play today. Those are issues that we have to deal with that we don’t always share.”
Sanchez, who lined a single to left off Andriese in his first at-bat and homered in his third, took a wicked foul ball off his mask in the sixth, causing him to sink to his knees. After getting evaluated by a trainer and Thomson (Girardi was ejected in the fifth), Sanchez stayed in the game.
“I feel fine,” Sanchez — who experienced some bruising near his jaw — said through his translator.
Starlin Castro considered himself “lucky” that he was no worse for wear a day after colliding with Judge on Friday night as both players pursued a foul ball.
“I think we’d all think, ‘If that guy hit me, we’d end up in the hospital,’ ” Castro said. “It was really scary. I thought it was going to be worse than that. I felt it more when I hit the ground . . . I feel really lucky. Thank God nothing worse happened.”
Oddly enough, Girardi said he heard about the collision for the first time from the media. He did not plan to watch it. Said Girardi, “Judge running into anyone, a wall, I worry about the wall.”