Pop top: Yankees’ Judge could get time batting leadoff
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge could be used at times as a leadoff hitter this season.
The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year was at the top of the lineup and went 1 for 4 in a 5-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
“It’s a potential. That’s why we’re deploying it and assessing it,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “We’re going to take a peak here. We’ll see how it feels.(backslash), Simple as that.”
Judge struck out on a 2-2 pitch from Brian Johnson in the first and smashed a one-hopper up the middle off the left-hander that the Red Sox turned into a double play to end the third. He had a leadoff single in the sixth and struck out during the eighth against Justin Haley.
Cashman said manager Aaron Boone and Judge discussed the possibility Thursday.
This could give Boone an additional option, especially when opponents start a left-hander that caused the Yankees to rest regular leadoff man Brett Gardner, who hit .209 against lefties last year and .283 against righties.
“We have a left-handed pitcher against us, starting, then you re-shuffle the deck,” Cashman said. “Who’s the best hitters against a left-handed opponent and how it should look?”
The idea developed after Boone questioned staff about lineup configurations. Boone is managing for the first time at any level.
“This is an example of when he processes that information and decides to take the next step, and wants to see what it looks like,” Cashman said.
Judge says he might have not hit leadoff since high school.
“This morning I wake up and I’m hitting leadoff,” Judge said. “It’s just another day. No big deal. It’s something we can do in the season. Get a feel for it in spring training before the games start counting. We’ll see how it goes.”
Judge batted .284 with a rookie-record 52 homers, 114 RBIs and a .422 on-base percentage. He walked 127 times but led the major leagues with 208 strikeouts.
Giancarlo Stanton was second in the Yankees lineup and went 0 for 2 with two walks. Gardner hit ninth and had two hits in three at-bats.
“I think there’s a strong case to be made for it,” Boone said. “We’ll see.”
Masahiro Tanaka allowed one run, five hits and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings. He is to start the second game of the season at Toronto next Friday.
“Before going into the season, you do want to see some results and I thought I was able to get that,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I thought it was a good outing.”
The right-hander gave up a wind-aided opposite-field to Ivan De Jesus Jr. that barely cleared a leaping Judge in right field.
Notes: 3B Brandon Drury left in the fifth after he was hit on the left elbow by a Johnson fastball. X-rays were negative but the elbow has swelling. “We’ll evaluate each day,” Boone said. ... RHP Luis Cessa was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... LHP Wade LeBlanc was released from a minor league contract.
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