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Boone: Aaron Judge is good physically, hitting it hard, and way ahead of 2018

Yankees Aaron Judge takes batting practice at the

Yankees Aaron Judge takes batting practice at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa, Florida after working out on Feb. 12, 2019.  Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Judge was an early arrival for spring training last February, a habit for the rightfielder since he’s been with the Yankees.

But Judge, coming off arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in late November 2017, was limited in what he could accomplish at the club’s minor-league complex — where players who report early get their work in — and through the first part of spring training.

That has not been the case in spring training this year, and it won’t be. Judge has been a presence at the minor-league complex for well over a week, with none of the limitations of a year ago.

Manager Aaron Boone described Judge as “really good” physically. “I think he had a really good offseason,’’ he said. “I think [he’s] so much further ahead of the game from where he was last year.”

Judge and the rest of the Yankees’ position players are scheduled to report Monday, with the club’s first full-squad workout planned for Tuesday.

In spring training last year, the Yankees took things at a deliberate pace with Judge, limiting his on-field work and holding him out of the club’s first five Grapefruit League games.

“We really slow-played him the first week or two because he was still recovering from that shoulder,” Boone said. “And a lot of his winter [going into 2018] was poured into the rehab of the shoulder.

“This year it’s been a normal offseason, getting his body in excellent condition. And when you talk to him, I think he’s really excited about where his shoulder is right now, certainly compared to this time last year. The maintenance he’s had to do on it, really, the last couple years, it feels like in a lot of ways he’s through that.”

Judge followed up his American League Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017 — when he had 52 homers and 114 RBIs and finished second in the MVP voting — by hitting 27 homers and driving in 67 runs in 112 games last season.

Judge hit 26 homers in his first 95 games but missed significant time in the second half. He was hit by a pitch on July 26, suffered a chip fracture in his right wrist and did not return until Sept. 14.

Boone, who before pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday watched several of Judge’s batting practice sessions from behind the cage at the minor-league complex, said he’s seen no lingering effects of the wrist injury.

“Plus-power,” Boone said with a smile when asked what he observed. “He’s good to go. He’s healthy. I think he’s as healthy as he’s been probably since he’s been in the big leagues. Another one who’s in really good condition, and I know he’s excited to get started.”

He added with another smile: “Plus-power. To all fields.”

Boone, entering his second season as manager, is more than ready for his full squad to report and get down to the business of preparing for a season he and the Yankees hope ends with a 28th World Series title.

“Out there during catchers’ stretch today .  .  . I love being able to really bear down on our bullpens and see how our pitchers are coming along in the early days. It’s important for me,” he said.

“But you also get to the point now where there’s several stages that you look forward to, getting those [position players] over here. I’ve seen pretty much all of them [at the minor-league complex]. They’re all pretty much here, so to get them in the mix and get going, it’s another one of those days that you look forward to.”


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