Sports

Yankees place Aaron Judge in center field

The Yankees had tried six different players in center field this season.

Aaron Judge became the seventh when he started in center on Wednesday night against the Rays in The Bronx.

The move came with Aaron Hicks out for the season with a wrist injury, Brett Gardner struggling at the plate and the Yankees so far unwilling to put Clint Frazier in the middle of the outfield.

Manager Aaron Boone said he and Judge began discussing the possibility of playing him in center during the past week. They cemented the plans following Tuesday’s 11-inning victory over Tampa Bay.

“Obviously understanding we’re in some unique circumstances right now where it’s needed,’’ Boone said. “Aaron is excited to step up to the challenge. He’s a great outfielder [and] a good athlete. Fundamentally, he’s incredibly sound as a defender.”

And he may be tested in center more than once.

Asked if he could see Judge playing there on an occasional basis, Boone said: “We’ll see how our situation evolves [and] see how it goes. We’ll see what our roster looks like as we continue to go forward. Circumstances change.”

That may all be true, but Judge is also prone to injuries. He has dealt with a mysterious lower-body injury, as well as side soreness, this season.

Aaron Judge is playing center field tonight.
Aaron Judge is playing center field tonight.
for the Gist Vile

The risk of getting hurt figures to be higher when roaming the spacious center field at Yankee Stadium than when playing right field.

Boone said he thought about that possibility.

“It’s something I considered,’’ Boone said. “There are days where he’s moving a ton in right field.”

Boone pointed to having been able to use Judge at designated hitter, to help save his legs, when Giancarlo Stanton was on the injured list. Stanton returned Friday.

“I feel we’re in a good spot with him,’’ Boone said. “It’s something I pay attention to and am monitoring.”

The Yankees haven’t had much luck in center this season.

Aaron Judge is playing center field tonight.
Aaron Judge.
AP

Hicks was supposed to be the regular center fielder, but surgery to repair a torn sheath in his left wrist ended his season. Gardner has been unproductive at the plate and the Yankees don’t want to play him every day.

Tyler Wade got one start there, as did Estevan Florial, who remains at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Ryan LaMarre got one game in center, but is also now on the IL.

Mike Tauchman got one start in center before he was traded to the Giants in exchange for left-handed reliever Wandy Peralta.

Frazier is another option, but he started in right field for a second straight game Wednesday, with Miguel Andujar in left.

Judge started a game in center in 2018, when Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury were both out with injuries and — much like Wednesday — the Yankees didn’t want to overuse Gardner.

Judge was fine that day in Toronto, and he also played center field while at Fresno State, where he played against Gerrit Cole, then at UCLA.

“He’s about as talented as they come on the baseball field,’’ Cole said. “There’s no job or task too big for Aaron. I probably assume he’ll come through this with the Superman cape he tends to wear every time he plays.”

Boone agreed.

“I think he’ll handle it fine and be seamless,’’ Boone said. “I think he’s equipped athletically and fundamentally to go over there and handle it.”


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