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Spring adjustments paying off for Judge

MLB.com @BryanHoch

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The message from the fourth floor of the Yankees' Spring Training home came through loud and clear for Aaron Judge, who arrived in camp backed by managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner's expectation that he would be the team's starting right fielder.

Judge has done everything in his power to take advantage of the opportunity, continuing his strong exhibition slate with a sixth-inning home run in the Yankees' 5-0 Grapefruit League victory over the Phillies on Friday at Spectrum Field.

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The message from the fourth floor of the Yankees' Spring Training home came through loud and clear for Aaron Judge, who arrived in camp backed by managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner's expectation that he would be the team's starting right fielder.

Judge has done everything in his power to take advantage of the opportunity, continuing his strong exhibition slate with a sixth-inning home run in the Yankees' 5-0 Grapefruit League victory over the Phillies on Friday at Spectrum Field.

View Full Game Coverage

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"I'm just trying to go in there and compete, have quality at-bats. That's the main thing," Judge said. "If I'm going in there having quality at-bats, that's all I can do. The rest -- where I go, who's playing where -- that's what the big boys are being paid to do. I'm just going to worry about playing the game and controlling what I can."

Judge is hitting .346 (9-for-26) with a triple, two homers, three RBIs and four walks in 11 Grapefruit League games, and manager Joe Girardi said that Judge seems to have handled Steinbrenner's challenge well.

"He's had a pretty good spring," Girardi said. "Obviously the strikeouts were a concern and he's a guy that's probably going to strike out some; I mean, that's the game today. But I think he's had a pretty good spring and I think he's making adjustments, which is really good to see."

Judge has showed the ability to come through with two-strike hits, having focused on making consistent contact after striking out 42 times in 84 big league at-bats last season. He has whiffed just six times this spring, and said that stabilizing his right hip has been a key.

"When I control that and I'm in my legs, it just helps my bat stay in the zone longer," Judge said. "The bat's not in and out of the zone, I'm staying through pitches better, and driving the ball to right better. It really just comes down to me controlling my back hip."

Aaron Hicks is competing with Judge to serve as the Opening Day right fielder. In 10 games, Hicks is batting .261 (6-for-23) with two doubles, a triple, a home run and two RBIs. Girardi said that he may not decide a winner in the competition for several more weeks.

"I've got until April 2, right?" Girardi said. "I think it's fair to take it to the end. I think they're both playing really well. Hicks has played really well too. We'll just continue to evaluate as we go."

Judge said that Steinbrenner's comments, made in a November interview on the YES Network, have not added pressure to his spring.

"Not really. It's tough to say," Judge said. "Even when I was going in there [in 2014] after only playing in Single-A, I still had the mindset that I was trying to take a job. That's what everybody should want to do. The moment you get comfortable, wherever you're at, you stop growing and stop getting better as a player."

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

New York Yankees