TAMPA, Fla. — New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge took batting practice for the first time since left shoulder surgery and said he is on track to play on opening day.

Judge hit a rookie record 52 home runs last year and was a unanimous pick for AL Rookie of the Year. He said the shoulder started to bother him around the All-Star break, but he did not have any injections of painkillers. He refuses to attribute a lengthy slump to the injury.

He is a centerpiece of the Yankees batting order along with catcher Gary Sanchez and newcomer Giancarlo Stanton, the major league home run champion last season with the Miami Marlins. The team’s new manager, Aaron Boone, plans to have Stanton and Judge – both right fielders – work out in left field and anticipates using the designated hitter spot to rotate players.

“Being around Stanton so far, he’s ready for New York, he’s ready to be here,” Judge said. “He’s going to fit right in with this team. It’s going to be a fun thing we’ve got here.”

Because he is coming off an injury, Judge was allowed to report early with pitchers and catchers. He had been hitting off a tee and taking soft tosses, then advanced Wednesday to hitting in a batting cage. He expects to hit on the field when position players report next week.

“My main goal is to be ready for Opening Day and we’re on schedule for that,” Judge said. “Everything is working out the way it’s supposed to be, and I’m looking forward to getting everything going.”


DIAMONDBACKS: Buoyed by optimism that just about everyone is back from a 93-win team, Arizona pitchers and catchers began spring training workouts.

Little was revealed, though, over the matter of whether the Diamondbacks truly have a shot at re-signing slugger J.D. Martinez.

Conventional wisdom was that Martinez priced himself out of the Diamondbacks’ salary scale with his monster half-season with Arizona, following his trade to the Diamondbacks from Detroit. It’s also true that Martinez has a long-term contract offer with Boston, but it’s smaller than he and agent Scott Boras believe is deserved. So there has been some thought about Martinez returning to Arizona, where he loved the clubhouse atmosphere and would get to play in the outfield rather than at his less-preferred role as designated hitter with the Red Sox.

He has said many nice things about the Diamondbacks.

“I don’t know exactly what he’s saying,” Arizona Manager Torey Lovullo said. “I’d just say the feeling is probably very mutual. If you’re saying he had some complementary things to say about this organization, we feel the same way. To be honest with you, it doesn’t surprise me. This is a special place. We believe in our players. We love our players. We allow our players to go out and perform and we enjoy their success as much as they do.”

WHITE SOX: Outfielder Avisail Garcia won his salary arbitration case and will get a raise to $6.7 million instead of the club’s $5.85 million offer.


Garcia was a first-time All-Star last year, when he was second in the AL batting race and set career bests with a .330 average, 18 homers and 80 RBI. He made $3 million.

BRAVES: Catcher Chris Stewart agreed to $575,000, one-year contract.

The 35-year-old hit .183 in 51 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. He is a seven-year major league veteran.

FORMER MAJOR leaguer John “Tito” Francona, the father of Indians Manager Terry Francona, died unexpectedly Tuesday night at his home in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. He was 84.

Francona played in the majors for 15 seasons, six with the Indians. He batted .363 and finished fifth in AL MVP voting in 1959, his first season with Cleveland. He led the AL in doubles the following year, and in 1961 he was an AL All-Star and led the league in singles.

Francona made his debut in 1956 with the Baltimore Orioles. He retired as a player following the 1970 season with Milwaukee.

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