“All Rise” is what the Stadium crowd hears when Aaron Judge comes to bat for the first time. When the slumping star got to the Stadium for Monday night’s game, he heard this: “Have a seat.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before Monday night’s series-opening 6-2 loss to Cleveland that he will give the rightfielder two days off in hopes that the mental and physical break will get him producing at the plate the way he did in the first half. Judge was hitting .329 with 30 homers and 66 RBIs in 84 games at the All-Star break but is batting .179 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and 65 strikeouts in 41 games since.
“I’m probably going to give him a couple of days off to see if that’s something that helps him, try to refresh him and get him going,” Girardi said. “He’s played in a lot of games . . . I just feel it might be time to give him a couple days.”
Judge wasn’t written into the lineup. He did not go on the field for batting practice. Girardi said his intention was to avoid even using him as a pinch hitter, and indeed, Judge did not play.
Girardi indicated that he didn’t want it to come to this, but there were signs that Judge wasn’t going to play his way out of the slump — a course the Yankees had pursued — without something changing.
“I just thought that he’s been missing some pitches that he usually was hitting in the first half,” Girardi said. “Sometimes just a couple of days away can refresh a guy and get him back on track. It’s not what you really want to do. We’ve tried a lot of different, other things. So we’re going to try this.”
Girardi said Judge isn’t the type to say if something physical is bothering him, but he has been wearing a postgame wrap on his left shoulder for about a month. The two have spoken about whether the condition necessitating the wrap might be affecting Judge’s offensive production. Judge said it is not, but Girardi pointed out, “It’s my job to watch him and to do what I think is best.”
It shouldn’t be discounted that by now, Judge’s hitting has been dissected by every team in baseball.
“There’s not a lot of secrets when guys get extensive at-bats,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “The player bursts on to the scene, then the league makes their adjustments and then you see what the player does. It’s always been that way and it’s fun to watch because the really good ones, they make their adjustment and it’s constant [battle] for years.”
This three-game series against the Indians cannot be discounted, but the four-game home series that follows against the Red Sox is critical for the Yankees, and a productive Judge could be vital. Before the All-Star break, he hit .333 as the Yankees won four of five meetings between the teams. Since the break, the Yankees have lost six of 10 to Boston, and Judge has gone 3-for-40.
“I’m just going to give him the day off. I just want him to take a mental day and a physical day and just rest,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t had many of those days and I think in the long run, this is going to help us.”