HOUSTON — Aaron Judge’s use of the word “surreal” to describe his season to this point is rivaled only by his home run total.
The word cropped up again Sunday when the rookie found out he had been voted into this year’s All-Star Game as not only a starter but the leading vote-getter in the American League.
“It’s the perfect word for it,” Judge, 25, said Sunday. “It’s surreal. It’s just a blessing, an incredible experience. I don’t have another word for it, to be honest . . . But any time you get an award like this, I feel like it’s a team award. I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for my teammates around me.”
Judge will be joined in Miami by four, and possibly five, teammates. Starlin Castro, Dellin Betances, Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez were selected for the team and Didi Gregorius has a chance as part of the “Final Vote.”
As for the Home Run Derby, Judge said he still has not made up his mind. He did say there is some appeal in possibly going up against Sanchez, who also has been invited to participate.
“That would be cool to compete against Gary,” said Judge, who leads all of baseball with 27 homers.
It was Betances’ fourth straight All-Star bid. Castro, on the disabled list with a hamstring strain but expected back perhaps sometime next week, would be making his fourth appearance.
“I don’t know,” Castro said about whether he will play. “My progress [recovering from injury] has been pretty good.”
It was the first All-Star bid for Severino and Sanchez and would be for Gregorius if the shortstop makes the team.
“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to play there in my first full season,” Sanchez said through his translator. “I’m very excited about that.”
While surreal to Judge, it most certainly could not have been a surprise.
From the time the first round of balloting was released early last month, it was apparent that Judge would be one of the three starting outfielders. He finished as the second-leading vote-getter in the major leagues, behind only Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, regardless of position.
Judge’s numbers have been, well, surreal. He entered Sunday ranked first in the AL in homers, runs (70), RBIs (62), OBP (.448), slugging (.686), OPS (1.134), walks (58), total bases (188) and WAR (5.1) and third in average (.325).
All of that after 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats last season and a down-to-the-wire spring training battle with Aaron Hicks for the starting job in rightfield.
“There was a lot of unknown,” Judge said. “And I think that’s kind of what motivated me to go out there and do what I can every day. Do whatever I could to be a consistent part of this lineup.”