New York Daily News
JURY FOR THE JUDGE
Beltran will mentor phenom outfielder
TAMPA — Carlos Beltran’s spring locker is tucked into a corner of the clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Make a hard right after coming through the door, pass some pitchers who are trying to make the club, and you’re headed right for it.
Just before reaching Beltran’s spot, you’ll find the locker belonging to Aaron Judge, perhaps the Yankees’ best position player prospect. Beltran asked to have Judge nearby because he wants to guide the player who most believe will succeed him in a year as the Yanks’ right fielder.
“He’s a guy, the future of this organization, and I feel like I’ll help him,” Beltran said Monday after a pre-camp workout at the Yankees’ minor-league complex. “When I was growing up and in the big leagues the first year, I had some veteran guys who took care of me, helped me, along the way.
“The game of baseball is not about what you can do for yourself — I know what I can do for me — but about trying to impact younger guys. I take pride in that.”
Judge got a text saying that Beltran had asked for Judge’s locker to be close. “It was pretty shocking,” Judge said. “Pretty cool.
“Being next to a legend is awesome. Carlos is a guy I’ve watched for years growing up, just how he handles himself on the field and off the field. He’s a class act, so it’s a pretty cool honor and privilege to be here.”
Beltran, who is entering the final season of a three-year, $45 million deal with the Yanks, already has an idea of one topic to discuss with Judge: Judge’s tenure at Triple-A last season.
After tearing up Double-A, Judge struggled at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He batted .224 with a .680 OPS in 61 games at the higher level and, perhaps, some of the bloom on his prospect status dimmed. The 23-year-old faltered against the more mature pitcher s i n Tr iple -A , who exploited when he wasn’t patient at the plate.
“Sometimes when you’re young and you go to one league and do well and then to a different one and struggle, sometimes you’re kinda doubting yourself,” Beltran said. “We’re going to talk about that. Basically, a bunch of stuff.”
Mentoring Judge, even though Judge is likely his eventual successor, is “the right thing to do,” Beltran says. “And at the same time, I feel like I can help him mentally. Strategy. Approach. I’ve been in the game for quite a while.”
True, and Beltran feels like he’s accomplished a lot in his 18-year career. But not everything he wants.
“The last thing I’m missing is a World Series, so I just want to be there and hopefully this year, with the guys we’ve added, like (Starlin) Castro and (Aroldis) Chapman and (Aaron) Hicks, I think we’re a better ballclub than we were last year,” Beltran said.
The 38-year-old noted Boston’s offseason moves — the Red Sox signed ace David Price and added closer Craig Kimbrel, among others — and pointed out that the Red Sox are getting several injured stars back, which should make the American League East race fascinating.
“We have confidence in ourselves,” Beltran said. “I know we have a great group of guys, a great mix. It’s going to be fun. Joe Girardi did a great job last year of managing everyone to the point where for the most part, we were healthy and only for Tex (Mark Teixeira), the foul tip that broke his leg. Having Tex healthy and Alex (Rodriguez) hopefully has a good year like he did last year and myself — hopefully I begin the season like I finished the season last year. It will be fun.”
Beltran, who had 34 doubles, 19 homers, a .276 average and an .808 OPS last year, hopes he can find the consistency he had through much of 2015.
“Hopefully, we can make it further in the playoffs,” Beltran said. Along the way, he wants to guide a pretty big part of the future — literally, since Judge is 6-7 and 275 pounds. “I just want to help him as much as I can so he can have a successful career,” Beltran said.