New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was a Most Valuable Player candidate through the first quarter of the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season. Across his first 18 games, Judge crushed nine home runs and recorded 20 RBI before he was sidelined by a right calf strain that ultimately kept him out of action for all but 10 additional contests.
As Bryan Hoch noted for the official MLB website, Judge replaced heavy weightlifting with yoga and other exercises during offseason training. Now a veteran of a handful of seasons and a player approaching his 29th birthday that will arrive in April, Judge told reporters on Tuesday he must put in the necessary work to avoid injury setbacks.
"Over the years, you learn to work a little smarter, not harder," he explained. "If I get a better first read, a better first step, that might help me not to have to crash into a wall. With my big body, 275 [pounds] diving over 162 games, it does a lot of wear and tear. It comes back to just playing a little bit smarter."
Judge hasn't made an All-Star appearance since 2018 and was slowed by injuries during each of the past two seasons. That reality coupled with a continued hunger for a World Series championship are motivating Judge early in spring training sessions.
"Every year, I put my heart and soul into this game," he added. "That’s why every year it hurts when we lose. I feel like I let the city down; I feel like I let my teammates down. Those cuts are deep; I’ve got scars all over me of past losses and past experiences. All it’s doing is making me stronger. It’s going to make it sweeter in the end."
BetOnline.ag currently lists the Yankees as favorites at +270 to represent the American League in the 2021 World Series.