TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Judge’s mammoth homer to left-center commanded most of the attention Friday.
After all, it hit near the top of the main scoreboard in left-center, a piece of Steinbrenner Field real estate rarely touched by baseballs.
As Didi Gregorius put it: “I mean, who’s not impressed by that?”
But there was more than that to excite Yankees fans taking in Friday afternoon’s 9-4 Grapefruit League-opening victory over the Phillies in front of 8,845. Many of the young players whom fans heard and read about throughout the offseason had their moments.
In addition to the 6-7, 275-pound Judge, who is 24, there was a two-run triple by Clint Frazier (22 years old), a top outfield prospect acquired in the Andrew Miller deal with Cleveland. Homegrown outfield prospect Dustin Fowler (22) also tripled. After Fowler’s rocket to right, shortstop Gleyber Torres (20), the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman deal with the Cubs, hit a sacrifice fly to deep right.
Miguel Andujar, a third-base prospect signed by the Yankees in 2011 who is only 21 years old, had an RBI triple and later doubled. He also played solidly in the field, and his overall outing demonstrated why opposing team scouts have been salivating over him for a couple of years.
Catcher Kyle Higashioka, a late bloomer who hit 21 homers between Double-A and Triple-A last season — and the old man of the group at 26 — hit a home run.
“We’ve been talking about it. We believe there’s a lot of talent here and there’s more coming,” Joe Girardi said. “You got to see all those guys have good at-bats.”
The veterans didn’t do badly, either.
Gregorius hit a first-pitch home run in the first inning and Matt Holliday, signed to a one-year, $13-million deal in the offseason, had two of the Yankees’ 11 hits.
“I think it’s an honor to back up the guys on the field that were ahead of us,” said Frazier, who replaced Aaron Hicks in left in the sixth. “To watch Matt Holliday do what he did, Didi, a first-pitch home run, Judge hit a 600-foot [shot] . . . It’s guys like that that make you really appreciate getting to come out here every single day and get to watch how good they are. We all strive to be like that.”
Frazier was fortunate to make it to third on his triple to right, something Girardi spoke to him about after the inning. Frazier did not track the ball and instead looked for third-base coach Joe Espada. But Espada was busy down the line waving Andujar around, and when Frazier took off for third, he was saved only because of a poor relay throw.
“That’s my read [whether] to go. Don’t look up to the third-base coach and expect that he’s going to tell me to keep going,” Frazier said. “He was covering Miggy [Andujar] running around third, so that was probably a poor decision on my part to go to third.”
Girardi said as much afterward, but he was far from upset. “I was really pleased with the young kids’ approach,” he said.
Fowler, chosen in the 18th round of the 2013 draft by the Yankees out of West Laurens High School in Georgia, said it’s an “exciting” time to be in the system.
“There’s a bunch of great guys. A lot of us were drafted in the same year, kind of have played ball together [coming up],” said Fowler, who finished last season with Double-A Trenton. “And we’ve got Clint, Gleyber, a bunch of new guys coming in, a lot of great talent. There’s a big future for the Yankees if all of us stay healthy and play together. It’s going to be fun.”