Last month, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge quickly became the answer to a trivia question by being the first teammates in MLB history to homer in their first plate appearances in the same game. And they did it back-to-back, too.
Both Yankees rookies have had a tough time since then, though. Austin showed signs of emerging from his slump Monday when he stroked two doubles off Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey and drove in two runs in a 5-3 victory over Toronto. Judge, however, struck out three times, giving him 26 strikeouts in his last 39 at-bats. He has four hits in his last 47 at-bats and is down to .169.
“Luckily, I got a few pitches I could handle and put a good swing on them,’’ said Austin, who is batting .205. “I’m just coming in every day and doing the same work that I’ve been doing all year. I’m not intimidated by these guys, I don’t think, anymore. So I think that’s the big thing. Just trying to get comfortable in the box and really have a quality at-bat.
“It’s always tough when you struggle, but you know at the same time, it’s a learning process. You got to come in every day and continue to work and not get down on yourself, and that’s what I’ve been doing. These guys have been doing it for a long time up here. I’m just trying to be confident in the box, if that makes sense, believe that I can get the job done. And that’s what I’ve been trying to take up to the plate.’’
That could be good advice for Judge, who is 1-for-12 with nine strikeouts this month. Oddly, he is 11-for-30 (.367) when he has hit the ball, but he has struck out 35 times in 65 at-bats.
“A little learning curve everywhere you go, from every level,’’ said Judge, who did make two good defensive plays in rightfield on Monday. “It’s just trying to make that adjustment as quick as you can. Some people it takes a little longer, some people it’s a little shorter.’’
Judge said veteran players have told him not to press. “They’re just kind of saying: ‘Everybody goes through it. It’s a process. Trust the process. Keep going in here, keep working, everything’s going to work out. We got your back.’ ”
If Austin continues to hit, his playing time could pick up — at the expense of Judge in rightfield when first baseman Mark Teixeira is ready to return. He’s had a recurrence of neck pain, opening the door for playing time at first base for Austin.
Joe Girardi mentioned Austin as a possibility in right, along with Eric Young Jr. and Rob Refsnyder. But the long-term choice would be Judge, one of the stars of the Yankees’ minor-league system.
“Some of it sometimes can be controlling your emotions,’’ Girardi said of a hitting slump. “Being able to relax in the box, not trying to do too much . . . As long as he remains patient, I believe he’s going to hit. But as soon as he gets over-aggressive, then start to worry a little bit.’’