Judge wants Yanks to have sense of urgency

March 31st, 2019

NEW YORK -- It may seem like a stretch to compare a season-opening March series against the Orioles to the intensity of October baseball, but if the Yankees are to reach their desired goal in 2019, that is exactly how wants his team to think.

"We've got to have that mindset that our backs are against the walls, every single game," Judge said. "In the playoffs, especially in '17, going down to Cleveland and Houston two games, our backs were against the wall. We came out and played our butts off. That's got to be our mindset. Our backs are against the wall. You can't take anybody lightly and you've got to capitalize on situations when they come up."

The Yankees won 12 of 19 meetings with the last-place, 115-loss Orioles last season, but they seemed to play down to Baltimore's level at times, losing three of four in an April series at Yankee Stadium and splitting a four-game series in July at Camden Yards.

By comparison, the Red Sox (16-3) and Blue Jays (14-5) posted better winning percentages against the O's. The Rays were 11-8 vs. Baltimore.

Manager Aaron Boone said he has no issue with Judge attempting to stamp on the accelerator early, saying that he wants his players to "come with the mindset every day that we're coming here to beat you down."

"There is urgency every single day," Boone said. "That doesn't mean overreacting or underreacting to anything that goes on in the course of the day, because it is a grind and a haul of a season. You've got to have some emotional stability day to day and not get on the roller-coaster ride."

Since the Yankees finished eight games behind the Red Sox in the American League East last season, some of the losses against weaker competition continue to stand out in Judge's mind.

"Every game is important, because you can go at the end of the year and look back at how many ... missed opportunities and games that we should have won, but we just didn't come up with the big hit, a costly error, stuff like that," Judge said. "Every single game is important."

Around the horn
said he felt "a few jitters, but a lot of excitement" following his Yankees debut in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Orioles, a game in which he contributed an RBI single, a double, run scored and several sharp defensive plays at third base.

"I felt good; got the first one out of the way," said LeMahieu, who had not played third base since 2014 with the Rockies. "I relaxed out there and felt pretty comfortable. I am excited for the challenge and opportunity. It's just a great team to be a part of."

A three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2014, '17 and '18) at second base, LeMahieu ended the top of the second inning with a nice play on Drew Jackson's slow roller, then started an inning-ending double play in the fourth.

LeMahieu also fielded a Dwight Smith Jr. dribbler for the second out of the eighth and was charged with an error after bouncing a ninth-inning throw to first base.

With Troy Tulowitzki getting the day off on Sunday, LeMahieu moved to second base, with Gleyber Torres handling shortstop. Boone has said he sees LeMahieu playing mostly at second and third, with some first base mixed in. LeMahieu could also play shortstop in a pinch.

"When we targeted DJ and he signed here, I think we all envisioned that this was a guy capable of this role on a high level," Boone said. "At least in my mind, I got confirmation early on watching him pick up a ground ball, the way his feet work, the way his arm works. We were comfortable that he was going to be able to handle this."