Judge gets first look in LF, praises Volpe

March 8th, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. -- had hoped for more action in his Grapefruit League left field debut, but with pitchers and largely overpowering the Cardinals’ lineup, the Yankees’ new captain had more time than anticipated to ponder his thoughts.

So after patrolling a different patch of real estate in New York’s 4-0 exhibition loss at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Judge came prepared with a response to one of the hottest questions in this Yankees camp: should 21-year-old -- the club’s top prospect and No. 5 overall -- actually head north with the team?

“I think he’s got all the makeup tools,” Judge said. “He checks a lot of boxes -- defensively, offensively. He’s a tough at-bat. He’s got the speed, which is a big factor now in the game. My thing has always been, if you’re the best player, it shouldn’t matter your age. You should be up helping the New York Yankees. It doesn’t matter if you’re 19 or 41. If you’re the best guy for the job, you should be playing.”

Ultimately, that call will be made by general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone, though it’s worth noting that Judge’s title of the captaincy comes with heft. After all, Judge suggested that he experiment in left field this spring, an avenue by which Boone hopes to wedge into right field for 40 to 60 games this season.

“Depending on our personnel, it makes some sense to do it out there,” Boone said. “We’ll just continue to look at it, and hopefully [Judge] can get up to speed rep-wise. It is something going to the other corner; it’s one thing going to center field, where guys tend to feel a little more natural. It’s just that different look. The fact that he’s had a few days to rep it will serve him well.”

According to Judge, Boone had mentioned needing to find a way to play Stanton more regularly in the outfield, believing those reps would help his offensive performance. With now entrenched as the Bombers’ starting center fielder but a less-settled situation in left field, Judge volunteered to take on an added responsibility.

“He was talking about left field and trying to figure out ways to get 'G' out in right, and I said, ‘Well, just put me in out there,’” Judge said. “‘If you want to give JD [Josh Donaldson] a DH day or DJ [LeMahieu] a DH day, I can play left like I played it in college. Let me take a crack at it.’

“He was into it; he said, ‘Let me think about this and get back to you.’ Then he came back to me and said, ‘I’ve got to get you in some games before I let you out there to try in a real game.’ Hopefully I don’t look too bad out there and he can keep me out there for a little bit.”

Judge believed that he hadn’t played left field since his freshman year at Fresno State University, but he played seven rather unmemorable games at the position for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2016.

“I think they were just trying to figure out a way to get me up to the big leagues,” he said.

Showcasing a sharp fastball, Cole struck out seven over 3 1/3 innings. Judge finally received some duty as Cardinals top prospect Jordan Walker laced a sharp line drive to left field; there was nothing for Judge to do but approach the rolling ball and scoop it up. Cole said he “didn’t even notice” that Judge was in left field.

“He’s just a great team guy, so what else do you expect?” Cole said. “He’d play any position if you’d let him, I think.”

St. Louis’ Dylan Carlson lifted a shallow pop in the fifth that fell for a single; similarly, Judge had no play on it, and his day was done soon after. Boone said Judge will get another crack at left field on Thursday against the Red Sox.

“You’re just dealing with right-handed, pull-side line drives; I think that’s the biggest factor,” Judge said. “Everything else is pretty much the same. You’ve just got to get used to the spin [being] a little different. When you have a Giancarlo Stanton 112 [mph] liner right at you, you don’t know if you need to come in or go back on it. Thank goodness he’s on our team, so I won’t have to deal with that.”