TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Judge, decidedly unhealthy in spring training a year ago, entered this year’s camp thrilled to be healthy above all else.
So the fact that he came into Monday night’s Grapefruit League game with no homers in 31 at-bats ranked about as low on his totem pole of concerns as possible.
"The power is going to be there," he said on Zoom before starting in rightfield and batting second against the Phillies at Steinbrenner Field.
Judge, who grounded to short and flied to the warning track in rightfield in his first two at-bats, entered the night 8-for-31 (.258) with two doubles, three walks and nine strikeouts.
But as Derek Jeter — the player whom Judge is compared to the most in terms of public comportment and consistent team-first comments — said a number of spring trainings ago: "The results [in spring games] are probably the last thing that's on my mind."
For his part, Judge is most concerned about the work he is putting in to have his "A’' swing ready by the time the season opens April 1 against the Blue Jays at the Stadium.
Which is something the 28-year-old rightfielder was not able to do in spring training last year because of a right rib fracture and collapsed lung.
"You’re always working on things," Judge said. "That's the one thing that I've kind of been blessed [this year], getting the chance to kind of work on some things."
"Work on getting to two strikes and battling in two-strike counts," he said. "Or [telling myself] ‘today I'm just going to work on hitting breaking balls' or 'today I'm going to work on maybe being a little more aggressive.’ You're always working, you're always tinkering, but I like where my swing’s at right now — hitting the ball all over the field, I feel like I'm swinging at the right pitches. And that's all that kind of really matters to me."
And it isn’t as if Judge has spent spring training hitting a bunch of bloopers.
"I haven’t seen anything [concerning]," one rival scout said. "Hasn’t given much away, [he’s] hit the ball hard. He also hasn’t gotten many mistakes. You generally hit home runs off mistakes, and he hasn’t gotten many. You don’t really worry about guys like that."
Aaron Boone certainly isn’t worrying. "I’m really excited about where [he’s] at," he said.
Like Judge himself, Boone sees the rightfielder's overall health as the most significant aspect of camp. Especially considering how various injuries have taken their toll on the 6-7, 282-pound Judge, limiting him to 28 games in last year’s COVID-19-shortened 60-game season, 102 games in 2019 and 112 games in 2018.
"This year, he went into the offseason healthy and I think had a really good offseason as far as putting himself in a really good position physically coming in," Boone said over the weekend. "We’ve built him up to where [he’s played] eight innings and I feel like his process of targeting that Opening Day to hopefully be as sharp and as ready as he can be. He’s had a lot of opportunities this spring to run the bases and kind of go first to third, and those things are nice to have happen in spring training. I’m really excited about where he is and the spring he’s had."
And the power?
"The power is going to be there, so it's not necessarily something I always try to [work on]," Judge said. "That’s a strength of mine, so I like to kind of work on other things that aren’t really a strength of mine and try to build them up and just trying to be the best overall well-rounded baseball player I can be. The power is not really a concern of mine."