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Focusing on 2-strike approach, Judge slugs HR

@BryanHoch
March 13, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- Aaron Judge's swing already appears to be in midseason form, producing his fourth spring home run in Tuesday's 8-7 Grapefruit League victory over the Orioles, and the Yankees slugger believes that he can improve even more before Opening Day. "I'll take the two weeks," Judge said on

TAMPA, Fla. -- Aaron Judge's swing already appears to be in midseason form, producing his fourth spring home run in Tuesday's 8-7 Grapefruit League victory over the Orioles, and the Yankees slugger believes that he can improve even more before Opening Day.

"I'll take the two weeks," Judge said on the YES Network. "It's always a good time to work on things; working on the two-strike approach against some guys, you work on hunting an offspeed pitch for a whole day, work on working the count or being aggressive. I like tinkering around these next two weeks, just trying to get ready for the season."

In recent games, Judge has been focusing on his two-strike approach, reducing or excising his leg kick, toe tap and stride. The goal is to reduce strikeouts, and as he showed with his first-inning blast off Baltimore's Mike Wright, a two-run shot to right-center field, Judge is equipped to produce utilizing this approach when the barrel of the bat meets the ball.

"A lot of my cage work is done with the no stride and it feels pretty comfortable, so I've been trying to take it into the game a little bit," Judge said. "For me, if there's any way I can simplify my already pretty simple swing, I feel like it's going to raise my contact rate and raise my chances of putting balls in play. If I do that, good things will happen."

Brett Gardner and Kyle Higashioka also homered in Tuesday's game. Judge remains confident that the Yankees can exceed their home run total from last year, when they set a Major League record with 267 homers.

"Our first main objective is winning the division, but with the type of lineup we have with the power hitters and the ability to get on base, one through nine we've got great hitters," Judge said. "I feel like we might crush that record. We'll see what happens."

Learning experience

As Jonathan Loaisiga continues to compete for one of the Yankees' rotation vacancies, he will be challenged to bounce back from a rough outing against Baltimore in which he permitted six runs (five earned) and five hits over two innings. He threw 34 of 52 pitches for strikes.

"It wasn't my best outing, but I'm positive," Loaisiga said through an interpreter. "There were many things that I can continue to learn from and continue to work. ... Continuing to command my pitches, I've got to do that better with my fastball. I will work in the bullpen to continue to improve my command. I think that was the key of what happened in tonight's game."

Loaisiga is battling with Luis Cessa, Domingo German and Stephen Tarpley for a spot on the Opening Day roster, with two rotation spots and a long-relief role envisioned. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the hurlers will have time to pad their respective bids.

"They've all, to varying degrees, done a lot that we've hoped and come in to put themselves in a pretty good position -- even though Lo struggled tonight," Boone said. "He's done enough to put himself in a good position, but there's still a ways to go."

CC tosses BP

CC Sabathia faced hitters for the first time since his December angioplasty on Tuesday, tossing 20 pitches to a group that included Billy Burns, Estevan Florial, Mike Ford, Matt Lipka and Troy Tulowitzki. The 38-year-old is slated to throw a simulated game on Saturday, after which he could appear in a game.

"He has really responded well to everything," Boone said. "I checked with him right after; how'd the knee feel? All the heart stuff, he's doing well, on track."

With his spring program delayed by the heart issue and right knee surgery performed in October, Sabathia is expected to miss his first two or three starts of the regular season -- including serving a five-game suspension for hitting the Rays' Jesus Sucre with a pitch last Sept. 27.

Making moves

Danny Farquhar, whose recovery from a brain hemorrhage sustained last April produced the most inspirational storyline of this camp, was among a group of eight players trimmed from the roster on Tuesday. Reassigned to Minor League camp, the 32-year-old Farquhar made three appearances for New York, allowing six runs in two innings (27.00 ERA).

"I think he just needs to pitch," Boone said. "We saw enough that suggests he can get back to where he was. He didn't get great results in the games, but we saw enough in his sim game work, how some of his pitches were playing. He just needs to go out and not be in a hurry to do it. He's a lot closer than it may appear."

Right-hander Chance Adams, infielder Thairo Estrada and right-hander Joe Harvey were optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Outfielder Trey Amburgey, right-hander Cale Coshow, catcher Kellin Deglan and Ford were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Bombers bits

James Paxton threw 78 pitches over five innings in a simulated game on Tuesday afternoon. Paxton is preparing to start the Yankees' second game of the season on March 30 against Baltimore.

Didi Gregorius (right elbow surgery) has been cleared to take dry non-contact swings with his regular bat. Gregorius estimated that after a week or two, he could resume hitting balls off a tee and in soft toss.

Jacoby Ellsbury (plantar fasciitis) is expected to report to camp on Sunday, at which time the Yankees plan to reintroduce him to baseball activities. Ellsbury has not appeared in a big league game since October 2017.

Up next

The Yankees are under the lights again on Wednesday, hosting Bryce Harper and the Phillies for a 6:35 p.m. ET game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will make his third start of the spring, opposed by Philadelphia right-hander Zack Eflin. Harper is expected to start in right field for the Phils, marking his third spring game.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.