Jorge Mateo speeds around the bases after hitting a solo home run vs. Red Sox on Saturday.
TAMPA – The Yankees envision a day when Jorge Mateo and Aaron Judge will combine to lead them to victories over Boston and other rivals in the fall rather than the spring, but this at least qualifies as an encouraging peek into their future.
Mateo and Judge, the Bombers’ two most prized positional prospects, each belted a home run to provide some excitement and pace the Yanks to a 6-4 win Saturday over the Red Sox at George Steinbrenner Field.
“I think you see the young players that are playing for us and how close they’re getting and some of the talent level. It’s there,” Joe Girardi said after the game. “There’s a lot of talent in this minor leagues, and that’s exciting for everyone in our organization.”
Mateo, the 20-year-old shortstop who stole 82 bases in two Single-A stops last season, launched a solo home run off the scoreboard in left-center against Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright in the third inning.
“He’s got a lot of tools and it’s exciting when he’s on the field,” Girardi said.
Mateo fully sprinted around the bases, even knocking off his batting helmet, after a few teammates had talked to him about not running hard on a shot off the outfield wall – which he still turned into a triple – earlier in the week.
“I thought I had a home run on Wednesday, but at the same time I learned to keep on running, run fast, run hard,” Mateo said through team translator Marlon Abreu. “My teammates told me to run hard all the time and I also saw video of it and I learned from it.”
Girardi and those Yankees who hadn’t previously seen much of Judge have learned quickly about the 6-foot-7 outfielder’s prodigious power, which included a mammoth blast over that same scoreboard in batting practice earlier in camp.
Judge, 23, went deep to the opposite field in right for a three-run blast, his first of the spring, against Boston righty Anthony Varvaro in the seventh.
“The wind’s been blowing my way for some reason,” Judge joked after the game.
Aaron Judge add a three run home run in the seventh inning.
“That’s how big and strong he is,” Girardi added. “The other impressive thing is I didn’t really think he got it and he still hit it out. He’s that strong that he’s going to miss balls and still hit them out.”
Judge belted 20 homers last season in 124 games at two minor-league levels but likely will return to Triple-A Scranton for regular at-bats to start the season.
Still, the Yanks’ 2013 first-round sandwich pick could make it to the majors in 2016 if injuries arise, much like since-injured first baseman Greg Bird replacing Mark Teixeira last summer.
“You feel like if something happens to one of your players you can rely on people to come up and do a good job and we saw a lot of that last year from position players and pitchers helped out, too,” Girardi said. “It’s nice when you can go to that well, because you know you’re going to have to at some point.”
Girardi also acknowledged “the plan for Judge is for him to be an everyday right fielder for us” in the near future, and the manager even allowed that “anything’s possible … sometimes guys end up making a club.”
Incumbent right fielder Carlos Beltran has one year remaining on his contract. But the eight-time All-Star still requested to locker next to Judge, and he’s been mentoring both youngsters throughout camp.
“(Mateo) has great talent, a great approach and he looks comfortable. Kind of like (pitcher Luis) Severino, but as a position player,” Beltran said. “He looks like he’s been there before. When you have confidence like that, that translates to success.
“Judge is in my group every day and he’s an unbelievable talent. He’s working, he’s a guy that asks questions and wants to learn and has a great attitude. It’s good to see younger guys performing well. I feel he has tools and abilities and I just want him to know that. When it comes from a veteran guy to a younger guy, that helps a lot … I’m willing to share, because that’s what it’s all about.”
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