Judge's scoreboard HR offers peek at ceiling

Judge's scoreboard HR offers peek at ceiling

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees hit three home runs as they lifted the curtain on a refurbished George M. Steinbrenner Field complex on Friday, but it was Aaron Judge's moonshot off the left-field scoreboard that had these Baby Bombers dreaming about the future.

Judge extended his arms to swat a first-pitch fastball from the Phillies' Elniery Garcia in the fifth inning of New York's 9-4 Grapefruit League victory, wowing the announced crowd of 8,845 with a titanic clout that dented the top of a beer advertisement before falling back to the playing field.

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"I felt like I squared it up; I just kept running," Judge said. "If I'm feeling good, swinging at the right pitches, I know I'm where I need to be. I'm not too worried about results right now. It's about just feeling good and getting ready for the season."

Judge on his homer

Didi Gregorius and Kyle Higashioka also cleared the wall, while prospects Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler and Gleyber Torres were among those earning postgame praise from manager Joe Girardi, marking a convincing first act as the Yankees renew their focus on youth and athleticism.

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"We've been talking about it; we believe that there's a lot of talent here, and there's more coming," Girardi said. "It's really good to see."

Frazier's two-run triple

There is inexperience -- Frazier's baserunning on an eighth-inning triple prompted Girardi to huddle with the outfielder for a teachable moment -- but so much promise. Gregorius claimed the year's first Spring Training homer by jumping on the first pitch he saw, but he refused to compare notes after witnessing Judge's display.

"No, Judge got that," said Gregorius, who hit a career-high 20 homers last year. "I've got a regular swing. Judge has got the power."

Gregorius' solo homer

This spring finds Judge -- who offered a taste of his promise in a late-season cameo, including a homer in his first plate appearance on Aug. 13 at Yankee Stadium -- working to correct the flaws that produced strikeouts in exactly half of his 84 big league at-bats.

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"If he gets the barrel of the bat to the ball, he's going to do a lot of damage," Girardi said. "There are going to be some strikeouts, and you can live with some strikeouts, but this is a guy that could be extremely productive -- just because of the raw power that he has -- and do significant damage."

The Yankees would love to see Judge step up and grab the right field job, though they are not handing it to him. Aaron Hicks is the primary stumbling block between Judge and an Opening Day start in the Bronx, and Judge said he prepared for the competition by identifying a mechanical flaw in his swing.

"I wasn't controlling my hip last year, so I was lunging forward and swinging at bad pitches," Judge said. "If I can focus on controlling my hip and being in my legs, I feel like I've got more room for error. For me, it's about staying grounded, feeling like I'm in the ground and swinging from there."

Studying video of players like Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Josh Donaldson and Miguel Cabrera helped, according to Judge. For the Yankees, the greatest fantasy of all is that Judge discovers a way to muscle his name into that elite stratosphere.

"It's the first game," Judge said. "You never know what could happen. If I'm feeling good, swinging at the right pitches, I know I'm where I need to be."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.