There’s a saying that Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ top offensive prospect, likes to use whenever people ask him about being one phone call away from the majors.
“Be where your feet are.”
In other words, don’t let your mind get ahead of yourself and stay in the present.
No doubt Judge has been using that phrase a lot in recent days because, from afar, so much has been aligning just right for the Yankees’ 2013 first-round pick to receive what would be a much-ballyhooed call up to the big show.
First, there’s Judge’s performance.
After a rough start to the season in Scranton, the hulking 6-7 Judge has been tearing up Triple-A in June, entering Wednesday night with seven home runs in his last 10 games.
Secondly, there’s a need.
The Yankees have proved they lack, more than anything else, run producers. They entered Wednesday night’s game last in the American League in OPS with .699.
And lastly, there’s potentially a roster spot to be had.
Carlos Beltran, the Yankees’ best hitter who just so happens to play the same position as Judge, is nursing a sore hamstring. The 39-year-old wasn’t in the lineup Wednesday night and manager Joe Girardi expects him to miss Thursday’s game, too.
And while the idea of Beltran landing on the disabled list hasn’t been floated publicly just yet, Girardi used the words such as “concerning” and “worrisome” while discussing Beltran’s hamstring.
Part of Girardi’s concern is that the Yankees head to San Diego after Thursday afternoon’s game and won’t have the benefit of the designated hitter for three games.
They already will be playing down a position player because Alex Rodriguez doesn’t play the field. What if Beltran’s hamstring limits him, as well? It’s hard to imagine the Yankees playing two position players short.
So, enter Judge?
That should be the move.
But the Yankees so far are reticent.
General manager Brian Cashman seemed lukewarm the other day, saying Aaron Hicks and Rob Refsnyder deserve the first shot at playing time. Girardi added Wednesday that Yankees’ decision-makers are careful to keep Judge’s development in mind.
“Obviously the minor league people are trying to finish this kid off in a sense, so when and if he gets here, he’s here to stay,” Girardi said.
That argument, though often used with big-time prospects, falls flat here. You might recall Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were sent back to the minors after their first stints in the major leagues, and they turned out just fine. Mickey Mantle, too.
So if the worst thing that happens is that Judge struggles for two weeks and gets sent back down, is that so bad?
At least according to Judge’s father, the 24-year-old rightfielder has the mental makeup to handle whatever comes his way, good or bad.
“When you work in a performance-based business, you’re going to have your highs and lows, and there’s stuff that comes with that,” said Wayne Judge, 62, a retired schoolteacher. “But if anyone can handle it, I’m sure Aaron can.”
Speaking by phone from his home in Linden, California, Judge said his son has always had a remarkable knack for keeping perspective.
He said he texts his son at the start of almost every day with the same few questions. The answers are always the same.
Feeling good? Yes.
Still having fun? Yes.
“He’s going out there playing the game he loves for the organization he loves and he’ll let the rest take care of itself,” Judge said. “Control what you control. That’s how he’s always been. That’s all you can do.”
The Yankees, miring around .500, need a jolt of offense and some buzz. Judge has the potential to provide both. Plus, as Girardi said, “As the days tick away you start to run out of time. You don’t want to bury yourself.”
So why not turn to the hot hand?