One of the Bronx Bombers’ biggest boppers will bat first on Friday against the Boston Red Sox in a batting position that’s normally occupied by speedsters like the team’s primary leadoff man, Brett Gardner. Judge will be setting the pace for a lineup chock-full of power hitters, including Giancarlo Stanton (batting second), Greg Bird (third) and Gary Sanchez (fourth).
This is the first time Judge has appeared at the top of the order in his professional career.
“I might have done it in a high school game once,” said the reigning American League home run champion, who hit 52 homers last season.
While Judge’s appearance at leadoff will certainly generate buzz around the baseball world, he enters this spring training game unfazed by the development.
“This morning I wake up and I’m hitting leadoff,” Judge said. “It’s just another day. No big deal.”
Manager Aaron Boone mentioned earlier this spring that he had thought about maybe moving Judge up a spot in the order to hit leadoff, particularly against left-handed pitchers. With the left-handed hitting Gardner usually at the top, the possibility of a right-handed bat like Judge’s (or a switch hitter like Aaron Hicks), could provide better top-of-the-order balance against a left-handed starter.
Judge maintained that this is still something the Yankees could do during the regular season, but they wanted to try it before spring training ends next week.
The Yankees will be facing a lefty in J.A. Happ on Opening Day in Toronto. But they have already announced that Gardner will bat first in that game.
Against the Red Sox on Friday, Gardner will round out the lineup batting ninth.
“So once the game gets going, he’s still hitting in front of me,” Judge said, “so it’s no different.”
Houston Astros rightfielder George Springer has been one recent example of a power-hitting leadoff man. Last season for the World Series champions, Springer hit 34 home runs, all while batting first. Of his 99 career homers, 61 have come from that spot.
As for Judge’s approach at the plate Friday, the outfielder contends he’ll be walking up with the same mindset he always does.
“It doesn’t change at all. It’s still the same game,” Judge said.
Does he think he can give the Yankees a 1-0 lead with an early home run?
“Yeah, if the first pitch is there. I get a good swing,” Judge said, smiling.