New York Yankees superstar Aaron Judge was basking in the Tampa Bay sun at the team’s player development complex, getting in some batting practice and some fielding work prior to spring training.
But he wasn’t shagging fly balls. Instead, the $360 million man was fielding grounders at first base.
Judge decided to go back to his high school days, where his 6-foot-7 frame was used at first base.
Judge was picking balls off the dirt and showed off his footwork taking throws across the diamond from DJ LeMahieu and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
But Yankees fans, don’t fret. This isn’t going to be an everyday occurrence.
If manager Aaron Boone has no other option, Judge does have the experience. But Anthony Rizzo re-signed with the Yankees this offseason just like Judge, cementing the veteran lefty at first base for the next two seasons.
Judge is still one of the best right fielders in MLB, and perhaps he will see more time in center field if Boone wants to move Harrison Bader around.
No matter how he gets Judge in the lineup, the Yankees are going to need that thunderous bat each night.
Judge is coming off a historic season, breaking the American League record for home runs in a single season set by former Yankee Roger Maris in 1961. Judge hit 62 homers on his way to securing the AL MVP award after slashing .311/.425/.686 with 131 RBI and 133 runs.
While Judge enjoyed one of the best regular-season runs in decades, he would’ve liked a World Series ring. The Yankees were swept by the Houston Astros, who ended up winning it all against the Philadelphia Phillies. Houston has had the Yankees’ number, and the Yankees enter the season trying to figure out how to change that.
Judge continuing to hit well at the top of the lineup is a good start. New York also signed lefty starter Carlos Rodon to add to a rotation that includes Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Luis Severino.
There was offseason talk Judge would return to his native California to join the San Francisco Giants, but he ultimately signed a nine-year pact for $360 million. With it, Judge became the 16th captain in franchise history, becoming the first since Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.
Expectations will be even higher for Judge because of the commitment he and the Yankees made to secure him as a cornerstone piece for the foreseeable future. And it appears he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win — even if that means moving to the infield.
Yankees pitchers and catchers report to camp Wednesday, and the first team practice will commence Monday.