TAMPA — Don’t look for Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the same Yankees lineup when the exhibition season opens Feb. 23.
“The games that matter are in April so if I miss a couple of games, which I probably will early in [spring training], I would rather miss those games than at the end of March and early April,’’ Judge said Wednesday at GMS Field, where he took batting practice for the first time since late-November surgery on his left shoulder that removed loose bodies and included a cartilage clean up.
“Everything is working out the way it’s supposed to be, and I’m looking forward to get everything rolling.”
Judge carried the Yankees to the top AL wild-card spot by swatting an AL-leading 52 homers and driving in 114 runs, which was good enough to be the AL Rookie of the Year.
Judge said the shoulder began barking midway through last season, but explained that crashing into a Fenway Park wall and tumbling into the seats on April 26 — his 25th birthday — wasn’t the cause of the discomfort.
“It’s tough to say. I kind of felt it around the All-Star break, but it’s tough to pinpoint when. I was crashing into walls and taking a lot of swings,’’ said Judge, who won the Home Run Derby in Miami.
A second-half swoon suggested the shoulder played a part in Judge’s production falling off after the All-Star Game. Prior to the break, Judge hit .329 with 30 homers, 66 RBIs and posted a 1.139 OPS in 84 games. After the break, Judge batted .228 with 22 homers, 48 RBIs and a .939 OPS. A strong September (.311 average, 15 homers, 32 RBIs and a 1.352 OPS) avoided an even worse second half.
Following Derek Jeter’s approach to injuries, Judge refused to link the shrinking production and the barking shoulder that he said was addressed with treatments but not injections.
“I don’t like making excuses so I don’t want to blame a shoulder or a knee or any injury,’’ said Judge, who hit .188 with four homers, 11 RBIs and an .816 OPS in 13 postseason postseason games. “Like I said, I could go out there and play. If my body is able to play, it’s all on me. It’s not on my shoulder, it’s not on a nagging injury, it’s on me. I wouldn’t say the shoulder had a lot to do with it. The biggest thing for me was just learning how to play with it. You got to learn how to deal with those things. It was my first time kind of pushing through an injury like that.’’
Judge said when the first full-squad workout is held Monday, he will be fully immersed in taking BP and is looking forward to talk hitting with Stanton.
“Stanton brought that up when we were in New York,” the 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge said of Stanton, who is 6-foot-6, 245 pounds. “He said, ‘I am excited to get in the cage with you.’ We hadn’t had a chance to talk hitting yet. That was one of the first things he said to me.
“He said, ‘When we get down to Tampa, let’s spend some time in the cage and pick each other’s brain. He has quite a bit of success in the league and I have a lot to learn from him and maybe he will learn a couple of things from me. I am excited to pick his brain a little bit, his mechanics, his approach. He has seen a lot of guys in the league, but him coming to the AL East, it’s a little bit different, so he will have a chance to pick my brain. It’s going to be nice to have another big guy in the clubhouse.’’
And hopefully for the Yankees, in the Opening Day lineup.
“That’s the goal,’’ Judge said of feeling confident about being ready for Opening Day against the Blue Jays on March 29 in Toronto. “These games in February and March don’t mean anything. My main goal is to be ready for Opening Day and we are on schedule for that.”