Yankees’ Juan Soto at batting practice during spring training in...

Yankees’ Juan Soto at batting practice during spring training in George M Steinbrenner Field on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024 Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — In his first game wearing a Yankees uniform, Juan Soto was as advertised.

The 25-year-old, the club’s headline acquisition over the winter, hit a three-run homer opposite-field to left, which clanked off the scoreboard, in the fourth inning of the Yankees’ 12-6 split-squad victory over the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field on Sunday.

Soto, who grounded into a fielder’s choice in his first at-bat in the first inning and walked in his second plate appearance, which came in the third, roped a 1-and-0, 91-mph fastball from righthander Trevor Richards an estimated 428 feet. The ball left Soto’s bat at 110 mph.

Soto, who is entering his walk year before free agency, batted second in the order, followed by Aaron Judge, who went 2-for-2 with a double.

And though Aaron Boone has been coy regarding the order in which the Yankees plan to deploy the two All-Star bats, Soto-Judge is all but certain to be the sequence when the Opening Day lineup in Houston is unveiled on March 28.

Judge, in his own way, has expressed a desire to hit third, with Soto in front of him, and the logic to that is obvious.

Starting with the fact that Soto has been an on-base machine the first six seasons of his career — a .421 on-base percentage — and maximizing the number of men on base for Judge makes too much sense.

“His first year here, I want to make it a good one,” Judge told reporters in Tampa. “I want it to be his best year. If he’s feeling right and he’s doing his thing, that’s only going to take us one step closer to a World Series.”

Rodon solid in debut

Carlos Rodon, whose ability to have a bounce-back season in 2024 is generally considered the key to the Yankees rotation after his nightmare of a 2023, allowed one run, one hit and two walks in 2 2/3 innings Sunday in Tampa. Rodon, 3-8 with a 6.85 ERA in an injury-shortened year, struck out five. The one hit was a homer, on a slider, by Alejandro Kirk, who has hit Yankees pitching with regularity in his time with Toronto.

“A good first step,” Rodon told reporters in Tampa. “It’s good to see there’s some swing-and-miss still in my arsenal. Just kind of build off that.”

Stuff happens

The Yankees had just one hit, a one-out single in the eighth by Greg Allen, in a 4-0 loss to the Phillies in Clearwater. The Phillies scored their third run in a three-run second when shortstop Oswald Peraza, a terrific fielder, dropped a routine Trea Turner pop-up that he had camped under.

Bryson Stott followed with another high pop toward the cobalt blue cloudless sky and, with the crowd hooting at him as the ball descended, Peraza squeezed it with both hands.

Going deep

George Lombard Jr., the Yankees' first-round draft pick last June (taken 26th overall) and a minor-league call-up for Sunday’s game in Tampa, homered in the eighth inning. Lombard Jr., who turns 19 on June 2, is a shortstop. His father, George Lombard, played six years in the majors and is currently AJ Hinch’s bench coach with the Tigers. Catcher Luis Torrens, a non-roster invitee who beat Anthony Rizzo in the team’s pingpong tournament Friday afternoon, also homered in the game at Steinbrenner Field.

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