Lifting off: Healthy Judge puts foes on notice

With wrist injury in past, OF shows power, lauds '19 version of Yanks

February 19th, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- 's megawatt smile was on display at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by glimpses of his light-tower power. Any discomfort in his right wrist has long been extinguished, which has the Yankees dreaming of another big-time season from their slugging right fielder.

As the Yankees went through the paces of their first full-squad workout, Judge's swings once again became a must-see attraction. Taking hacks in a group alongside and , Judge said that his wrist has completely recovered from the chip fracture he sustained on a hit-by-pitch last July 26 in the Bronx.

"I feel nothing," Judge said. "That was the thing that I was surprised about, especially during the season ... that pain lasted a little longer than three weeks. In the offseason, I was a little worried about it, but it's 100 percent. It feels like nothing even happened, which is a good thing. Nothing to worry about there."

Unless you make your living as an American League pitcher. Despite missing seven weeks after being drilled by that errant fastball from the Royals' , Judge hit .278 with 27 homers and 67 RBIs in 112 games, including a .352 average at Yankee Stadium.

Asked what he learned from his 2018 season, Judge quipped: "Don't get hit in the wrist. Turn the other way."
Judge was one of the team's bright spots during the postseason, when he batted .421 (8-for-19) with three homers and four RBIs in the five games, though the Yankees' season ended for a second consecutive year at the hands of the eventual World Series champions.
"It's always a disappointment," Judge said. "Any time you don't win a World Series, you always want to be that last one standing. That will be our goal again this year. We added quite a few new arms, we added a couple of new position players that are really going to beef up this lineup. We already look pretty good."

Days after scored a four-year, $40 million extension from the club, Judge claimed to be unaware of any such discussions relating to his own future, saying that his focus would remain on the season ahead.
Judge was able to have a normal offseason, a luxury that he was not afforded last year, when he was recovering from left shoulder surgery. Following the American League Division Series, Judge said that he took two weeks off and got back to work, fine-tuning some aspects of his swing and baserunning.
"The majority of my offseason last year, and even the majority of Spring Training, was just get healthy to where you can play in a game," Judge said. "It wasn't, 'I'm healthy, and I can tinker with this or tinker with that, or see if I can work on this today.' It was more, how do you feel?
"Going into the season, just trying to stay healthy, that was a grind. This year, getting a chance to work on things with my swing and my approach, that's when it gets fun."
Though the club opted not to make offers to sluggers and , Judge said that he was "praying" for the front office to add a different free agent -- a wish that was ultimately granted.
Yankees content to move on without Machado
"Adding [Adam] Ottavino, man," Judge said. "That's the one guy I watched in the offseason. I kept praying, 'Come on man, let's pull the trigger on him.' He's got some nasty stuff. He's going to be a dominant force in our 'pen, along with getting [Zack] Britton back as well. He's another guy where I was like, 'I don't want to face that guy. I don't want to see him in the postseason.'"

Judge also lauded the moves to re-sign and add infielders and , saying that they should mesh nicely with the core that is already in place.
"I feel like we're in a really good position this year again to make a run at it," Judge said. "And not only a run at it for this year, but for many years. We're going to be set for quite a few years."