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Boone: Judge HRs due to health, approach

@BryanHoch
August 3, 2020

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge was confused by the focus on his opposite-field home runs last season, when the Yankees slugger did not pull a ball over the left-field wall until August. As he said at the time: “Why’s that matter?” This year, five of Judge’s Major League-leading six homers

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge was confused by the focus on his opposite-field home runs last season, when the Yankees slugger did not pull a ball over the left-field wall until August. As he said at the time: “Why’s that matter?”

This year, five of Judge’s Major League-leading six homers have been hit to left field, following a 2019 season in which Judge pulled just six of his 27 homers. He was rewarded on Monday, honored as the American League Player of the Week.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone believes part of Judge’s power surge can be attributed to his improved health, having used the four-month delay of the season to recuperate from a fractured right rib. But he also thinks it is a product of how opponents are pitching to him.

“His approach has been excellent,” Boone said. “As you're in the league more, you gain more and more experience. Hopefully along with that, especially when you're a smart player like Aaron, your process and your game plan should become even a little bit better and a little sharper as you move forward.

“I think he's just put himself into some really good positions to be able to hunt certain pitches in certain situations. I know it was a storyline last year where all his homers were going the other way, but it was never really a big deal to me. I think it's just more a result of the pitches. He's in a good place, being in a good position to handle mistakes.”

The frightening part, at least for opposing pitchers, is that Judge said he still is searching for more comfort at the plate.

“I’m not locked in yet,” Judge said. “I'm still trying to find that. That's the daily grind of baseball, searching for that locked-in feeling. But now I'm feeling good.”

In the Electric City
Luis Cessa is continuing to advance in his throwing program at the Yankees’ alternate training site in Moosic, Pa., and the right-hander expects to rejoin the big league club for this week’s games against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

“I feel great,” said Cessa, who said that he has completed mound sessions of 25, 40 and 40 pitches since returning from the COVID-19 injured list. “I'm trying to be the long [reliever] … and be in shape and be ready. I'm just waiting for the decision and trying to stay healthy.”

Cessa said that he experienced fatigue for two to three days after returning to baseball activities, but he said that his energy is now back to normal. Cessa said that social distancing protocols have been in effect at PNC Field, which normally serves as the home of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

“We use both clubhouses, for the home team and the away team, and we use masks all the time,” Cessa said. “We work in groups of only 10 people -- two groups of pitchers, two groups of position players. The dinner room is separate; we're eating food in boxes. It's a really good group here. We're just trying to stay safe and working hard every single day.”

Aroldis Chapman joined the satellite group in Pennsylvania on Monday, according to Boone, who said that the left-hander is set to throw from the bullpen mound on Tuesday or Wednesday. Boone said that protocols required Chapman to rehab at the secondary training site.

Building up
James Paxton said that he was “concerned” by the dip in his fastball velocity through two starts, averaging 91.5 mph and maxing at 92.9 mph on Sunday. Those numbers are down from his 2019 average of 95.4 mph, though Boone said he believes the left-hander has made a healthy return from lower back surgery performed in February.

“I'm pretty confident it's not physical,” Boone said. “I feel like he's healthy. ... Maybe he's going through that [phase] of still trying to build up. We do feel like physically he’s sound with all the behind-the-scenes tests we do as far as measuring strength and output. It's very similar to what it's been his entire career. He feels good. I think it's just unlocking that final [stage], really getting that extension and letting it go.”

Up next
With Tuesday’s game at Yankee Stadium postponed due to a forecast of severe weather, the Yankees and Phillies will play a seven-inning doubleheader on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park, with first pitch scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET. The Yankees will be the “home” team for the first game of the doubleheader. The second game will start approximately 35 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.

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