Aaron Judge leaves a mark in return, Volpe’s first spring bomb steals attention

Aaron Judge is at the Yankees vs. Pirates game at Tampa, FL, on March 20, 2024.
Michael Bennington
Thursday March 21, 2024

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Aaron Judge finally delivered the news Yankee fans were craving – he was back. Following a ten-day odyssey of missed games, an MRI exam for abdominal discomfort, and mounting media speculation about his Opening Day availability, the captain came back to anchor the Yankees.

On Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Steinbrenner Field, Aaron Judge silenced the doubters and took the field, putting an end to the swirling uncertainty surrounding his return. Manager Aaron Boone’s previous attempts to predict Aaron Judge’s comeback timeline proved futile, but the wait was finally over.

Batting in the heart of the order at number three and patrolling center field for four innings, Aaron Judge stepped into the role the Yankees envisioned for him all along. His first plate appearance yielded a clutch RBI double that found the gap in the outfield. His second time up, he displayed his discipline by drawing a patient eight-pitch walk. Defensively, Aaron Judge remained sharp, confidently tracking down a deep fly ball to the warning track.

Expressing satisfaction with his current physical condition, Aaron Judge voiced his eagerness for more at-bats, swings, and challenging defensive plays as he ramps up for the start of the regular season. This productive outing served as a sigh of relief for the Yankees and a positive step forward for Aaron Judge’s return to full form.

Aaron Judge gears up for Yankees’ Opening Day

Aaron Judge’s return to the lineup signifies a crucial step towards Opening Day for the Yankees. However, the team is taking a measured approach to ensure he’s fully prepared.

The current plan involves Aaron Judge participating in three of the Yankees’ remaining four Grapefruit League games. While the team travels for a game on Thursday, Judge will stay in Tampa to focus on workouts. He’ll then rejoin the team for back-to-back appearances on Friday and Saturday, marking his first consecutive games this spring training. Aaron Judge’s final game is slated for Monday, the Grapefruit League finale.

Ideally, Aaron Judge would reach his preferred benchmark of 30 at-bats in spring training. Given his current total of 18 plate appearances, achieving that may be unrealistic. However, he acknowledges that additional at-bats against the Trajekt, a pitching machine that simulates real pitchers’ motions on a video screen, will supplement his overall workload.

Expressing confidence in their preparation, Aaron Judge emphasized that the team would continue their current training routine over the next few weeks to ensure they’re in peak condition for Opening Day. This focus on controlled participation in remaining games and additional simulated at-bats reflects a strategic approach to optimizing Aaron Judge’s readiness for the regular season.

Over the past ten days, the Yankees have adopted a cautious approach with Aaron Judge’s participation in spring training games. This prioritization of his well-being, even at the cost of missing games, underscores the team’s focus on ensuring his availability for the regular season opener next Thursday against the Houston Astros.

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A sense of relief for Yankees

Manager Aaron Boone expressed a sense of relief, clarifying that his concerns regarding Aaron Judge’s abdominal discomfort had lessened over the past week. He explained that the MRI scans provided immediate reassurance, suggesting the situation was manageable. Boone emphasized the importance of preventing Aaron Judge’s injury from becoming more severe. To achieve this, the Yankees have implemented a gradual plan to increase his game time and overall fitness, ensuring he’s fully prepared for the rigors of the regular season.

This measured approach to spring training appearances highlights the Yankees’ long-term strategy. While missing games might seem concerning in the short term, prioritizing Aaron Judge’s health ensures his availability for the entirety of the upcoming season, a much more valuable outcome for the team’s championship aspirations.

Volpe goes deep, bullpen shines in Yankees 12-0 win over Pirates

The New York Yankees dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates 12-0 in a spring training game on Wednesday, showcasing several encouraging performances.

Yankees prospect Anthony Volpe announced his presence with a bang, launching his first home run of the spring. This impressive opposite-field blast came in the opening inning against Pirates’ southpaw Marco Gonzales. Volpe’s early season power surge bodes well for his development.

The Yankees’ bullpen demonstrated its strength with a combined effort from six relievers. Familiar faces like Victor Gonzalez, Clay Holmes, Ian Hamilton, Caleb Ferguson, and Nick Burdi all took the mound. Collectively, they delivered a dominant 5 ²/₃ scoreless innings, striking out eight batters while surrendering a mere three baserunners. This outing highlights the depth and reliability of the Yankees’ relief corps.

Luke Weaver, vying for a roster spot as either a long reliever or a potential fifth starter, solidified his case with a stellar performance. He pitched a crisp 3 ¹/₃ scoreless innings, reaching a pitch count of 50. Weaver has been diligently refining his mechanics throughout spring training, and his sharp outing against the Pirates is a testament to his progress. Reflecting on the game, Weaver emphasized the importance of consistency in his mechanics and minimizing overthinking on the mound, demonstrating his dedication to pre-season improvement.

Cortes takes mound for final preseason start

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The New York Yankees are finalizing their preparations for Opening Day as they face off against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, March 21st at 1:05 PM in North Port, Florida. This matchup holds particular significance as it will be starting pitcher Nestor Cortes‘ last tune-up before taking the mound on Opening Day.

Cortes, who has solidified his position as the Yankees’ Opening Day starter, will be looking to refine his pitching and build momentum in his final spring training appearance. The game against the Braves serves as a critical opportunity for Cortes to test his skills against live competition and make any necessary adjustments before the regular season commences.

Overall, the Yankees’ convincing victory served as a positive springboard for the upcoming season. Volpe’s power display, the dominant bullpen effort, and Weaver’s strong showing offer promising glimpses into the potential strengths of the team.

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