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Yankees’ Aaron Judge hits slump, but stays positive

New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99)

New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) draws a walk during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York on Friday, August 26, 2016. MLB Baseball between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees. Credit: Steven Ryan

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Aaron Judge had a very Gary Sanchez-like start to his big-league career, homering in each of his first two games.

Three games in, the 6-7 outfielder had five hits total, three of them extra-base hits.

And it was there the comparisons to Sanchez ended.

Judge entered Tuesday night’s game with a .111/.195/.139 slash line in his previous 11 games since the initial three-game flurry.

Many of his at-bats have been non-competitive as the 24-year-old has struck out 20 times in his previous 36 at-bats entering Tuesday.

“No one said it was going to be easy,” Joe Girardi said before Tuesday’s game.

That is because what Sanchez has done, of course, in his first month is the outlier for rookies. The vast majority of them experience the kind of slumps Judge is in, some of them even worse.

“When a guy comes in and hits like Gary Sanchez has for a month, that’s not normal,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of guys that go through this.”

Girardi is not concerned.

“You go through ups and downs when you’re young, but we believe he’s going to figure it out,” he said.

If the slump has effected Judge’s disposition, it hasn’t shown. Judge still strolls through the clubhouse bantering, far more often than not with a smile, with teammates and staff.

“Not really,” Judge said Tuesday, asked if he’s felt any difference in recent weeks as he’s struggled. “It’s kind of been the same since Day 1. For me, it’s just really been about me trying to get a pitch I can drive.”

Royals starter Edinson Volquez gave him just that in Tuesday night’s game and Judge hit a two-run homer to left centerfield.

And the biggest difference he’s seen at this level compared to Triple-A is how many of those pitches he gets during the course of a game.

In Monday’s loss, for example, Judge went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts before being pinch hit for in the eighth inning by Brett Gardner.

Judge said in the three at-bats, he saw two pitches total he felt he could drive.

“There’s good pitchers in this league,” he said. “They’re going to nibble around the strike zone, you might just get one mistake, maybe two mistakes a game and you just can’t miss them. In the minor leagues, they’ll make a couple of more mistakes. (Here) you have to capitalize on it.”

Judge said the strikeouts don’t bother him.

“It’s all part of the game,” he said. “You don’t want to strike out but it happens.”

One opposing team scout who has watched Judge for much of the last month said the rightfielder has some work to do, raising a point minor leagues scouts from other organizations have mentioned since the Yankees drafted him in the first round of the 2013 draft.

“I don’t know if he’s going to make enough adjustments,” the scout said. “He’ll have to make them with that long swing. I’m going to have to see him make some adjustments and not being so predictable with his swing. Pitchers are getting him on everything right now.”

Judge said he has not been frustrated by how things have gone since his first three games.

“I’m not too worried,” he said. “I turn the page pretty quickly.”

Girardi said he’s kept an eye on Judge through this stretch and has certain things he watches in players when it’s not going well.

“How much he’s talking, how he is around the guys,” Girardi said. “The way he walks up to the plate, walks back from the plate, is he hanging his head? Is he still the encouraging guy I’ve always seen? He’s doing all those things, so I haven’t seen a change in his personality. That’s probably the best indicator of how a guy’s handling a struggle.”


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