Yankees legend sounds warnings about Aaron Judge

    Add New York Yankees legend Bernie Williams to the list of people concerned about club captain Aaron Judge serving as a first-choice center fielder after the Bronx Bombers acquired All-Star outfielder Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres this past December. 

    “It’s going to be a challenge for Aaron,” Williams, a retired center fielder, said on Wednesday, as shared by Bob Klapisch of NJ Advance Media. “You have to move around more. It drains you more than in right field. I wonder if that’s going to take a toll on his conditioning later in the season. (The Yankees) really need his offense. So I’m thinking, his time will have to be carefully managed. He needs to be the (designated hitter) a couple of times a week.” 

    Former Yankees hitting coach Sean Casey, Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay and retired Gold Glove center fielder Lorenzo Cain voiced similar worries about Judge shortly after New York landed Soto. The 2022 American League Most Valuable Player nevertheless is on track to begin the 2024 season in center, and Judge joked earlier this week that he’s making the switch because he kept “getting hurt in right field.” 

    Judge was patrolling right field when he suffered a torn ligament in his big right toe last June, an injury he said this week will cause him to need “constant maintenance” throughout the remainder of his career. 

    “In right field, you might bump into the wall once in a while, but in center, it’s all about territory every single day,” Williams explained. “Even little things like backing up bases, center field is more demanding.” 

    As of Thursday afternoon, DraftKings Sportsbook listed the Yankees fourth among the betting favorites at +1000 odds to win the World Series this fall. It’s difficult to imagine such a dream will become a reality if an injury sidelines Judge for a significant portion of a second consecutive season. 

    “Everything he can reach will be his,” Williams added about the 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge needing to be a “captain of the outfield” in center. “In the corners, you have this little radius of movement but have to learn when to break off and let the center fielder take over…The center fielder also has a different trajectory throwing to home plate. The (pitching) mound is in the way. You don’t have to worry about that in right. And center fielders have to protect against collisions. Communication is important. Aaron is a very big guy. He could hurt someone.” 

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