Judge, Stanton add ding, zing to first spring BP

Fans pack Steinbrenner Field as Yankees sluggers put on inaugural show

February 19th, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. -- Sixty players passed through the runway that leads from the home clubhouse to the dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday morning, but all eyes seemed to be locked upon and .

Hacking at batting-practice fastballs for the first time as teammates, the headliners of last summer's Home Run Derby generated much the same sizzle as they did that memorable night in Miami, with each of their swings prompting audible reactions from an estimated crowd of about 2,000.

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"The fans, the moment we touched the dirt, they were buzzing and ready for us to get in the cage," Stanton said. "That was really cool. Like nothing I've ever experienced in the spring."

With the Major League home run leaders from last season batting in a group that also included and , Stanton won the first pinstriped mini-Home Run Derby of 2018 during Monday's full-squad workout, cracking four blasts to Judge's two.

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More importantly, the showcase provided a sneak preview of the rock-star atmosphere that promises to follow the Yankees during the 2018 season, with Judge and Stanton shining as the team's brightest lights. The Yankees recently opted to open gates three hours early for Spring Training home games so fans won't miss a swing.

"I think they understand the buzz," manager Aaron Boone said. "They understand it's always going to be something that's talked about, certainly at home, but even when we go on the road. Frankly, I think that's a good thing, because it helps promote our sport."

While many of their 30 swings weren't in midseason form, Judge and Stanton each connected for notable drives. Judge cleared a grandstand during his final round, while Stanton clipped the "F" in George M. Steinbrenner Field atop the scoreboard. Judge was impressed by Stanton's drives into the wind, saying, "You can just hear it. It comes off his bat different."

"From what I've seen so far, he's a guy that's going to go out there and do his job, get the work done," Judge said. "That's what I saw in his cages. He's preparing the right way, I saw him in the weight room going through his normal routine. He's just here to work."

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With the focus on Judge and Stanton, Sanchez's strokes were reduced to a footnote. The slugging backstop crushed several impressive drives, including one that struck a concrete pillar beyond the wall in left-center field.

"Gary rakes. That's what I think," Boone said. "He's special. He gets in that box, and yeah, I do think he gets overlooked. I can't wait to see what he's going to do again this year."

It was the first on-field hitting session of the year for Judge, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in November. Judge said that "nothing is holding me back," and that he never swings at max effort during batting practice.

"My job is to barrel up the baseball as many times as I can," Judge said. "I've got to stick to my routine. It doesn't matter if there's zero people in the stands or if it's packed. I've just got to work on certain things so I can go in the game and perform."

Stanton said that the fans did not affect his workout in any way, though he joked that he was "playing pepper with the cage a little bit." Stanton said that he typically tries to hit the ball to right field, focusing on back spin and staying inside the ball rather than trying to drop jaws in the crowd.

"I know they're here for the entertainment, but we've got to get our work in, too," Stanton said. "That's my usual approach in BP. That's what got me to this point. It's not going to change."