Aaron Judge refuses to use a shoulder injury he suffered last season as an excuse for a subpar second half.
Speaking to reporters at the Yankees' Spring Training facility in Tampa on Wednesday, the 2017 A.L. Rookie of the Year talked about the injury and subsequent surgery he underwent in November.
"I felt it midway through the season last year," Judge said. "But it came down to, 'Can you play?' And I could play. ... If I was able to play, I was going to go out there and be ready for my team."
The 25-year-old hit .284/.422/.627 and set a Major League rookie record with 52 home runs to go along with 114 RBIs and an A.L.-best 127 walks. However, he slumped to .228/.391/.548 in the second half, although he did go deep 19 times.
Having the surgery during the season was a possibility, according to Judge, who decided to hold off until the offseason.
"I felt it would be best to do it on the offseason because we were fighting for first place in the division and fighting for that playoff spot, and I wanted to be out there for the team," he said. "I was able to play. I felt like in the offseason it would give us a couple months to rehab, and that was the best time. ... I don't like making excuses. My shoulder, my knee, any injury. Like I said, I was able to go out there and play, so it falls on me, not the shoulder or some nagging injury."
Judge believes he'll be ready for Opening Day, although he expects to miss a few games in Spring Training, especially early on.
"I feel like we're right on the schedule progression we set up after the surgery," Judge said. "With that, the games that matter are in April. So if I miss a couple games, which I probably will, early in the spring, I'd rather miss those games than miss games starting at the end of March or early April."
First-year manager Aaron Boone is also planning to be cautious with his young slugger, who will pair with reigning N.L. MVP Giancarlo Stanton to form the most powerful duo in the game.
"I don't need him getting three at-bats on February whatever," Boone said. "We'll just be smart in how we go about it. There's time for him to get those at-bats before we break camp."