Six months after the 2018 Yankees set major league baseball’s single-season team home run record, Judge and Gardner foresee the 2019 Yankees shattering that historic mark.
“We’re going to hit more this year,” Gardner said Sunday.
Asked whether he agreed with Gardner’s emphatic statement, Judge doubled down.
“Oh definitely. You get this whole team healthy, we’re going to crush the record that we set last year,” Judge said. “We’ve got a good team, a lot of guys that could make a lot of solid contact, and a lot of big boys that when they make contact, man, it goes. We’re a team that’s primed and ready to do that.”
The 267 homers the Bronx Bombers slugged last season — Gleyber Torres’ record-setting blast was crushed at Fenway Park late last September — outpaced the 264 the 1997 Seattle Mariners had hit.
The Yankees’ record-breaking season came during a year that was fraught with injuries to key power hitters. Judge was out for two months with a broken wrist. Groin strains sent Gary Sanchez to the disabled list twice. An early-season ankle surgery slowed Greg Bird and may have led to a general lack of production from him late in the year.
Two of those hitters had homer drop-offs from their 2017 seasons. Judge went from 52 home runs in his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017 to 27 last year. Sanchez fell from 33 to 18.
“So far in camp, everybody’s healthy, everybody’s hungry and working hard,” Gardner said. “Yeah, I expect us to have a better year, collectively, and not just me, or Giancarlo [Stanton] or Bird or whoever. But collectively as a unit, I expect us to be a better offense and score more runs.”
The 5-foot-11 Gardner said he has joked often with the hulking Stanton and Judge about them individually posting massive homer totals.
“I tell them, anybody can hit 50,” Gardner said, drawing laughter from reporters. “I know I run my mouth a lot to everybody … [but] we’ll see. Whether it’s 42 or 62 or something 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. Seems like every day or every other day I still get amazed by what they’re able to do.
“The key for them is just to stay healthy, just like everybody. Stay on the field.”
Gardner made his comments just after hitting a pair of home runs in three plate appearances in Sunday’s 7-1 split-squad win over Detroit at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Judge also had two, although the second was aided by Tigers right fielder Victor Reyes, who wasn’t able to cleanly catch the hard-hit liner toward the right-field wall. The ball skipped off his glove and over the wall. Like the left-handed-hitting Gardner, both of the right-handed Judge’s homers were hit to right field.
“Anytime he hits two, he starts running his mouth,” Judge said from his locker as Gardner started shouting back in the distance.
“Stay over there, man. That’s why we’re this far apart,” Judge retorted, laughing.
After the first homer Gardner hit, Judge said the 35-year-old veteran was insufferable in the dugout.
“He just kind of mouthed off and all of a sudden he hits the second one and he says, ‘Hey, anybody can do it once or twice. What you guys [got]?'” Judge said. “I told him anybody can pull the ball, try hitting the ball oppo.”
In addition to their four home runs, Sanchez, returning to game action over the weekend after offseason shoulder surgery, hit his first spring training home run. Minor leaguer Isiah Gilliam also crushed his own opposite-field blast. In the other split-squad game at the Blue Jays’ facility, Yankees first baseman Luke Voit homered in a 5-2 loss.