By Jeff Capellini
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Imagine hitting a record 267 home runs in a season and not having Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez for a combined 118 games.
Welcome to life in the Yankees lineup.
The Bombers may be righty-hitting heavy and may not be the best at manufacturing runs, but there’s no question they bring the lumber and will score a ton of runs during the 2019 season.
“Oh, definitely. You get this whole team healthy, we’re going to crush the record that we set last year,” Judge said Sunday after hitting two homers in a 7-1 split-squad win over Detroit. “We had a good team, a lot of guys that can make a lot of solid contact. When they make contact, it goes. We’re a team that’s primed and ready to do that.”
New York broke Seattle’s 15-year hold on the single-season team home run record with an onslaught last season. The Yanks had 12 players reach double figures in bombs, including backup catcher Austin Romine. Six guys hit at least 24, with Giancarlo Stanton leading the way with 38.
Yet most agree Stanton was not his usual self in 2018. He admitted dealing with a hamstring injury for a good part of the season and his transition to playing in the Big Apple and facing AL pitchers after spending his first eight big-league seasons in the NL with Miami were not things he adapted to all that quickly.
Then there was Judge, who was named AL Rookie of the Year in 2016 after hitting 52 homers, but was sidelined 45 games last season after getting hit by a pitch on the right wrist during a game against Kansas City in late July.
“I give both of them a hard time every now and then. I run my mouth a lot to everybody. I tell them, ‘Anybody can hit 50.’ So we’ll see,” veteran outfielder Brett Gardner said of Stanton and Judge. “Those guys, whether it’s 42 or 62 or somewhere in between, we all know what they’re capable of and how much raw power they have. It’s a lot of fun to watch ’em. It seems like every day or every other day I still get amazed by what they’re able to do.
“The key for them is to just stay healthy. … At the end of the year, they’re numbers are going to be there and we’re fortunate to have them both in our lineup.”
Sanchez had his own injury problems last season, including two disabled list stints due to a groin problem that ultimately cost him 73 games. Overall, the 26-year-old catcher hit just .186 with 18 homers, 15 fewer than the year before.
But this spring, with the exception of Didi Gregorius, who is still on the mend following Tommy John surgery and won’t be back until June at the earliest, injuries have yet to really impact the Yankees and if things stay that way there’s no telling how many times this season viewers at home will be subjected to exit velocity and launch angle during broadcasts.
As if on cue, the Yanks have 16 homers in just six spring training games.
“So far in camp everybody’s healthy, everybody’s hungry and working hard and I expect us to have a better year collectively, not just me or Giancarlo or (Greg) Bird or whoever. Collectively as a unit, I expect us to have a better offense and score more runs,” Gardner said.
For the record, in addition to all the home runs they hit last season, the Yankees were second in MLB in runs with 821, eight less than World Series champion Boston.