New Yankees manager Aaron Boone has an idea on who to fill the leadoff spot on the roster. That’s Aaron Judge, the man who set the MLB rookie home run record with 52 last season. That’s Aaron Judge, the man who’s struck out 250 times in 182 major league games. That’s Aaron Judge, who at six-foot-seven in no way looks like the leadoff hitters we grew up watching. “I’d say it’s possible,” Boone told the media on Tuesday. “I’ve thought of it. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s likely. But something like that I would view as possible. It was considered. Something we’ve talked about.” Many are already debuting the merits of such a move, and some believe there is a time and a place where it would make sense for Boone to give it a shot. That time and place being when the Yankees square off against left-handed pitching. Against right-handers, the leadoff spot will be mostly occupied by veteran Brett Gardner. It would definitely give the opposing pitcher something to think about on pitch one. The looming possibility of a mistake pitch putting him in a 1-0 hole right away would weigh heavily on any pitcher’s mind. Pitching around Judge isn’t a great option either. He’s often patient enough to take his walk, which in this case would set the table for Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. The argument against Judge in the leadoff spot is that he becomes a little less dangerous when batting with the bases empty. That would be the case at least once every game if he’s leading off. By the same token, it does guarantee more at-bats, and more at-bats mean more opportunities to get a quick run on the board. Hitting a slugger leadoff has actually worked out pretty well in Houston, where George Springer topped 30 homers as a leadoff man last season. There are a lot of perspectives it can be viewed from, and those are what Boone will apparently weigh in the weeks ahead. For what it’s worth, Boone has kept Judge in the No. 2 spot throughout the spring. For now, that seems to be his home. But if that changes we could be looking at one of the most interesting and powerful leadoff hitters in MLB history.
Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani is still transitioning to the majors as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. On the pitching side, things look promising. On the hitting side, Ohtani has had some tough luck early on. That took a turn for the worse Wednesday, as he had to face Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Ohtani’s first at-bat against Kershaw actually started out pretty well. He managed to work a 2-2 count against the lefty, which is no small feat. It was at that point that Kershaw decided to unleash the pitch Vin Scully once dubbed as “public enemy No. 1.” Kershaw dropped a beautiful curve low and outside to Ohtani, who stared at it until the ump rang him up on strikes. Upon getting back to the dugout, all Ohtani could do was laugh about what just happened. Can you blame him? Kershaw is known for having a knee-buckling curve, and if you’re not used to seeing it, you can forget about hitting it. As for the laughing, it appears this may have been a “welcome to the majors” moment for Ohtani. He just saw what the best of the best had to offer, and he came up short this time. It also appears the rest of the Angels were laughing along with him. As Ohtani approached the dugout, outfielder Justin Upton could be seen smiling, as if to say, “Now you see how much of a pain it is to hit this guy, rook.” Kershaw didn’t find much humor in the interaction. Following the game, he said there was no extra excitement when facing Ohtani. The result of one at-bat is not meant to be an indictment of Ohtani’s skills. Few major-league hitters can touch Kershaw, especially when he drops a hammer curve into a tough spot. It’s more a reminder that Clayton Kershaw is still amazing. No matter how good you are, seeing that majestic curveball for the first time will stop you in your tracks.
The Seattle Mariners, the franchise that brought Ichiro to Major League Baseball as a curiosity and saw him blossom into historic figure, had signed him to a one-year contract after he had spent the previous five in New York and Miami. And though this was a moment for baseball and the Mariners and fans to celebrate, the subtext of Ichiro’s words – the stuff beyond how happy he was to be back – offered insight into a man loath to offer much. He sounded wise. “It was tough experiences,” he said. “But I was able to learn from those experiences, and I was able to adapt and be able to go out and perform even though the situations and atmospheres have changed. All those experiences, all those things I went through, have made me who I am today.” And that, he said, is different than the player who came to Seattle in 2001, batted .350 and won the American League MVP award. It’s not the guy who slapped 262 hits in a season and booked a decade of 200-hit years and exceeded the 3,000-hit plateau despite not playing his first game in the major leagues until after his 27th birthday. “I’m really thinking about this year and what the Seattle Mariners need,” Ichiro said. “What I can do to help. And that’s what I want to do. I want to be able to help the Seattle Mariners. I want to give it all. Everything I’ve gained, everything I’ve done in my career, I just want to give it all right here in Seattle.”