MINNEAPOLIS — Aaron Judge’s numbers this season have surprised more than a few people.
James Rowson is not among them.
“Not at all,” the Twins’ hitting coach said Monday.
Rowson, in his first season with the Twins, spent the previous three seasons as the Yankees’ minor-league hitting coordinator.
He worked with many of the Yankees’ top prospects in that capacity, a group that includes Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez and, of course, Judge.
Though he didn’t foresee exactly the kind of season the 25-year-old has had, Rowson said Monday that there always have been signs that it was possible.
“I know it’s kind of funny to say that [that he’s not surprised] because of those numbers,” Rowson said. “But just the person, the player, the work ethic, all the things he does on a daily basis and has done to this point, he’s been like that from Day 1. His hard work has created this success.”
Judge went 0-for-3 Monday night, extending his slump to 1-for-21 in the Yankees’ 4-2 loss to the Twins. Minnesota scored two runs in the eighth off Caleb Smith, who had pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh.
Despite his slump, Judge still entered the night with a .313/.434/.655 slash line and had 30 homers and 66 RBIs. The rightfielder led the majors in homers and slugging and led the American League in OBP and walks (64).
“I’m just really excited for him, really happy for him,” Rowson said. “I know the work he put in for years to get to this point. It wasn’t easy. A lot of going through some strikeouts, going through some down times, but he never lost sight of what his ability is and who he knew he could be. I’m enjoying watching this year. He’s a special player but he’s more of a special person.”
Rowson said at each stage of Judge’s development in the minors, not to mention his first foray into the majors last August, he went through difficulties for far longer than the four-game skid he brought into Monday.
“He remained the same guy,” Rowson said. “He’s going to do the same thing now. This game does that, there’s ups and downs. Sometimes people figure things out and then you have to figure things out. He’s going to do that for the next 15 years playing baseball. The way he is, he’ll turn it around.”
While panic about Judge’s first slump of the season oozed on social media, he hasn’t exhibited any.
And there has been some bad luck involved, such as Sunday night in the third inning, when he sent a liner to right directly at Red Sox rightfielder Mookie Betts. Then centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. stole a home run from him in the eighth, drifting into the triangle at Fenway Park and leaping at the wall to prevent his mammoth drive from landing in the bullpen.
“That’s part of it,” Judge said. “You’re going to have your ups and downs. You’re going to have times where you do everything right and you still get out. It’s just part of it. I’m happy with a lot of the swings I took the last couple of days, but you don’t get any results for that. That’s baseball. That’s the game we play.”
Joe Girardi said on Sunday and again Monday that slumps are part of the game for any player. It just took Judge longer than most to experience one.
“I just think he was a little off,” Girardi said. “I think there were pitches he probably missed that a lot of times he hits, but you’re going to go through that during the course of a season.”
The key, Girardi said, is Judge’s reaction, which hasn’t been any different from when things were going well. “He continues to have that smile on his face and play loose,” he said. “I haven’t seen him press.”