Heading into spring training this week, oft-injured New York Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are looking for positive results after “dramatically” altering their winter workout programs－including spending less time in the weight room.
“It’s been dramatic. In both cases, they’ve lifted a lot less than they have in the past,” Eric Cressey, the Yankees’ director of player health and performance, told the YES network on the weekend.
“Aaron in particular has really taken a heavy interest in doing a lot of yoga. We have to be mindful of the stresses on guys who are 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 (just over 2 meters), big dudes who are standing around for long periods of time in cleats. Those are things that normal people don’t encounter.”
Both outfielders－who will earn a combined $39.2 million this season－were plagued by nagging lower-body injuries in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Judge, 29, played in 28 of the 60 games, batting .257 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs. Stanton, 31, played in 23 regular-season games with a meager slash line of .250/4/11, but blasted six homers and drove 13 runs in 26 playoff at-bats against the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays.
“Prior to Game 5(of the American League Division Series), Giancarlo was out doing some sprint work and it was as athletic as I had ever seen him,” Cressey said. “It was super encouraging to see him getting back to form after such a tough season. We’re looking for that to continue.”
Cressey also has high hopes for newly acquired right-handed starter Corey Kluber, who signed with the Yankees last month. Kluber has worked regularly with Cressey as he aims to return to form, having been limited to just 36.2 innings over the past two seasons due to injuries.
“I look for his ability to command a glove-side fastball,” Cressey said. “That’s the pitch when he’s executing it, he can throw a front-hip two-seamer to a lefty and everything else plays off that. It’s been really, really good. Today we saw a really sharp hard cutter, which is a thing that is like a natural evolution over the course of his offseason. We’re seeing the crucial checkpoints that we’ve learned over 11 years are certain boxes we see along the way.”
The Yankees hired Cressey after a 2019 season in which they set MLB records by having 30 players serve 39 stints on the injured list.
“Last year was a little bit of a dumpster fire in terms of Major League Baseball injuries,” he said. “What baseball really learned last year above all else is you can’t do spring training in three weeks. There’s a very skill-specific aspect of preparation that takes time for that adaptation to kick in.
“I’m very confident that baseball understands that now, and we will have a little bit more of a gradual on-ramp this season.”
Meanwhile, Associated Press reported on the weekend that an independent lab report has found that the new balls to be used this season fly up to 3 feet (91 centimeters) shorter on hits traveling more than 375 feet (114 cm).
After the league saw a record 6,776 homers hit in 2019 (the last 162-game season that was played), the home-run rate fell from 6.6 percent of plate appearances in 2019 to 6.5 percent in the 2020 campaign.
Following the 2019 season, a committee of scientists commissioned by MLB came to the determination that because of inconsistencies in seam height, balls had less drag on average than in previous seasons.
MLB balls are hand-sewn at the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica and must have a coefficient of restitution (COR)－in simple terms, bounciness－ranging from .530 to .570, but the average had trended toward the top of that range in recent years.
For this season, Rawlings has loosened the tension on the first of three wool windings inside the balls. The company’s research team believes this adjustment will bring the COR down slightly, while also lessening the ball’s weight by 2.8 grams without changing its size.