If you think about Aaron Judge’s first at-bat this postseason against Shane Bieber, you wouldn’t think that he was forced to miss most of the season with a calf issue and that his rhythm and timing were never altered by the injury. He homered against the likely AL Cy Young and set the tone for the New York Yankees to sweep the Cleveland Indians.
The Yankees’ slugger recently talked to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com and said that, in his view, the real season is about to begin.
â€œTo me, the regular season is kind of like Spring Training,â€ Judge said. â€œThe real season is the playoffs. You want to see a team that shows up in the postseason. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™re going to see.â€
However, baseball is a game of reps and, for batters, timing. That home run against Bieber, that gave the New York Yankees a 2-0 lead before Gerrit Cole even threw a pitch, ended up being Judge’s only hit of the series.
He’s been struggling to get his timing back, and used the final 10 games of the regular season to rediscover his craft.
â€œThere was never any concern,â€ Judge said. â€œWe didnâ€™t really have any chance to have rehab games to work the kinks out, see pitches, put the ball in play. We got thrown right into games going down the stretch when it mattered. I wasnâ€™t too concerned about trying to hit home runs. Once the postseason comes, Iâ€™d be ready to go.â€
Yankees duo worked hard to regain rhythm
Judge and fellow Yankees’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who also recently came off the injured list, have worked a lot to get their mojo back. Before the Cleveland series, they spent additional time with hitting coach Marcus Thames using the high-velocity machine.
Now, Judge has spent several days getting used to Petco Field in San Diego, where the New York Yankees will play the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-five series, starting today. He’s checking ball bounces, angles, and the outfield walls.
â€œWeâ€™ve got a lot of homework to do,â€ Judge said. â€œWeâ€™re excited for it. Pressure is a privilege. Thereâ€™s going to be a lot of pressure situations that we get thrown into throughout this postseason. I think thatâ€™s what makes this team so special. Weâ€™re not running from those bases loaded, two outs, game on the line spots. Weâ€™re embracing them.â€