The Yankees’ Aaron Judge fields during spring training in Tampa,...

The Yankees’ Aaron Judge fields during spring training in Tampa, Fla, on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Judge didn’t exactly provide solace to fans hoping to hear his big toe problem is completely in the past.

“It’s going to be, I think, a constant maintenance the rest of my career,” Judge said Tuesday in his first news conference of the spring. “Anything with injuries like that, you just got to stay on top of it so it doesn’t flare up again.”

To be clear, Judge, coming off a season in which he missed 42 games after suffering a torn ligament in his right big toe after barreling through the rightfield fence at Dodger Stadium last June 3, didn’t say the toe is currently an issue or that he expects it to become an issue.

“We’re feeling good right now, we’re out there, we’re moving, we’re grooving, so we’re going to try and keep it that way,” Judge said.

The 2022 American League MVP and team captain returned last July 28 and ended the season hitting .262 with 37 homers, 75 RBIs and a 1.019 OPS in 106 games.

Prospect Jasson Dominguez is out until at least the early summer as he recovers from a torn UCL in his right elbow. Therefore, Judge is expected to see most of his playing time in centerfield when the season starts.

Judge, who turns 32 on April 26, joked about center, the position he played most of his career at Fresno State and far and away his favorite spot to play in the outfield.

“I keep getting hurt in rightfield, so I think that’s why they moved me to centerfield,” he said, drawing laughter.

Judge’s ability to stay on the field, of course, is not a laughing matter to either him or the Yankees.

He incurred the injury last June 3 as he made a running catch that robbed J.D. Martinez of a potential extra-base hit in the eighth inning of a Yankees’ 6-3 victory over the Dodgers.

The all-out effort, and ensuing injury, was reminiscent of Sept. 18, 2019, when Judge jammed his shoulder on an unsuccessful diving attempt to catch a sinking liner, which caused not only a bruised shoulder but a right rib stress fracture. That led to an offseason in which Judge pushed through the pain, but his 2020 spring training was shut down early as a result of lingering discomfort (spring training for everyone would be shut down weeks later because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

“I think it’s just about playing smarter,” Judge said of perhaps changing his style of play. “Understanding the field, understanding the dimensions. In that case [at Dodger Stadium], I thought I had one extra step and I didn’t in that situation, so that always goes back on me. I have to be a little smarter there.

“So, yeah, just like this year, I’ve got play smart. But, no, I don’t think they’ll be any cement bottoms of walls in centerfield hopefully.”

Judge’s injury, though not the sole factor, helped sink the Yankees’ 2023 season, which ended with an 82-80 record and the team missing the playoffs for the first time in his career (the Yankees missed in 2016 but Judge, then a top prospect, was an August call-up that season as part of the club’s “Baby Bombers” youth movement).

Judge, who lives in the area, was among many Yankees players who started showing up at the club’s minor-league complex in Tampa in early January for regular workouts to prepare for 2024, extra motivated to put ’23 behind them.

“I think a lot of guys were embarrassed, a lot of guys didn’t have the season they wanted,” Judge said. “Kind of a wake-up call, and I think collectively as a group we all kind of looked at each other and said, ‘This can’t happen again.’ ”

The outfielder, who very much resembles the franchise’s previous captain, Derek Jeter, in that he calls every season that ends without a title “a failure,” could fairly be described as obsessed with winning the club’s first championship since 2009.

Judge is the most popular Yankee by far since Jeter, who retired in 2014. But even Judge’s manager, in saying by the time Judge’s career is done he could be considered in the franchise-icon class of a Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle or Jeter, said there is one accomplishment this captain needs on his resume to be considered a peer in that kind of group.

Judge, no doubt, would agree.

“I think his popularity within the city and around the nation . . . years from now he’ll start to have the longevity where you’ll see him pile up numbers that rival greats,” Aaron Boone said. “We just have to take care of the championship part of things.”

More Yankees headlines

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME