TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees' lineup gives them plenty to dream on, and the nightmare is only beginning for opposing pitchers. With their most lethal bats stacked for the first time, Gary Sanchez delivered the biggest blow, dropping jaws in the home dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Sanchez upstaged the first appearances of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the same order, mashing a first-inning Daniel Norris offering over the 40-foot-tall scoreboard in left field to produce the first runs of New York's 9-6 Grapefruit League loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.
"It just feels good when you hit the ball square like that," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "To add to that, you're putting your team ahead. That means a lot."
Challenged by something that could resemble an Opening Day lineup, Norris navigated the first batters carefully. Brett Gardner flied out, Judge whiffed at an 84-mph changeup in his first at-bat of the spring, and Stanton picked up his first Yankees hit with a soft flare to right field.
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In stepped Sanchez, who crushed Norris' first pitch over the "O" in the "George M. Steinbrenner Field" sign for a mammoth two-run homer. To at least one observer, the shot brought back memories of Sanchez's first-round performance in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby last year, which knocked out Stanton.
"It looked like he was back in the Derby, kicking my butt," Stanton said.
Norris didn't bother to take a look, believing that the decibel level of ball meeting bat confirmed "it was going pretty far."
"That was loud," added Judge. "I heard it inside, in the clubhouse. I was going in to take some more swings and saw it on the TV. He's explosive. I feel like that's what Gary does. He can just wake up out of bed with no swings and get into a game and do that. It's pretty impressive."
It has been suggested that Sanchez is being overlooked while hitting in a batting-practice group that includes Judge, Stanton, Greg Bird and -- most recently -- NFL quarterback Russell Wilson.
While that may be true from a media standpoint, manager Aaron Boone said that it is impossible for opposing clubs to ignore the slugging backstop, who has collected 53 homers and 132 RBIs in just 674 big league at-bats.
"I think anyone that comes up against us understands who he is when he gets in that box, and the respect is very much there," Boone said. "I hope he'll benefit from guys being on base. I think with our lineup and with Giancarlo and Judgie, he's going to walk up there with guys on base a lot, and that's where he'll see the benefit."
If that is so, Sanchez said that he won't mind if the headlines are doled out to Judge and Stanton.
"Not at all," Sanchez said. "I've said it many times before. My job is to go out there, give the best I have and help the pitchers on this team, work with my pitching staff. I don't mind it at all."
Serving as the designated hitter, Judge went 0-for-2 in his spring debut, which was delayed as he recovers from left shoulder surgery performed in November. He grounded out sharply in the third inning, with third baseman Jeimer Candelario making a nice backhanded stop. Boone said that Judge is scheduled to play right field on Friday against the Braves.
"I feel great. I feel like I was swinging at the right pitches," Judge said. "I got into one good count in the last at-bat and just missed one. Good first step. I don't feel anything [in the shoulder]. It feels great. That's the kind of progress we wanted. We've just got to build on that and take it into our next game."
Stanton missed a homer by a few feet, denting the wall in right-center field with a fourth-inning double off Chad Bell. Wednesday served to whet Stanton's appetite for what is yet be to come.
"I've already thought about the possibilities; you just put it together," Stanton said. "We won't be fully in sync until we all feel good up there. It was Judge's first day; me and Sanchez got a couple days here and there. Later in spring when we're all in sync and feel good, it'll be really dynamic."