Progressing Aaron Judge talks Shohei Ohtani’s pursuit of history: ‘Records are meant to be broken’

20 July 2023

ANAHEIM – If Shohei Ohtani breaks the American League’s single-season home run record this year, Aaron Judge won’t be disappointed.

“Records are meant to be broken,” said Judge, who set the bar at 62 last season. “It’s just a record, and it’ll be exciting for the game if he went out there and got 63-plus. So we’ll see what happens.”

The red-hot Ohtani, who went deep against the Yankees on Monday, entered Wednesday’s game with 35 homers in 94 contests, putting the two-way sensation slightly behind Judge’s 2022 pace. Judge had 37 home runs through 94 games last year, and he ultimately topped Roger Maris in his 161st game.

Of course, a multi-homer night here and there could change Ohtani’s trajectory. Judge isn’t too preoccupied with the chase as he recovers from a torn ligament in his right big toe, but he knows he’ll get another crack at the record if Ohtani surpasses him this year.

“I still got quite a few years left in this game,” Judge said. “So if he breaks it, that will give me another opportunity to go out there and try to do something special. But I’m not really too focused on that right now. I’m always wishing him the best. Aways excited to see what he can accomplish. But I’m not too worried about the record right now.”

Judge, speaking from experience, said that Ohtani will have to tune out the noise if he comes close to the record. Judge broke it as an impending free agent. Ohtani is in the same boat, but with the added distraction of a possible trade in the next few weeks. Judge didn’t start thinking about Maris’ mark until he got to 61 dingers, as that’s when fans started staying quiet and getting upset when he hit anything other than a homer.

Judge, speaking at the request of Japanese reporters, said Ohtani is capable of hitting 80-100 homers in season, but that sounds like hyperbole — even for a player that has defied expectations since becoming an Angel in 2018.

With a 3.50 ERA over 18 starts, Ohtani is one of a kind. Or, as Judge agreed, a “unicorn.”

“It’s incredible,” the reigning MVP said of the 2021 MVP. “It’s fun to watch. I don’t like watching it in person when he’s playing against us doing what he’s doing, but it’s fun when you can turn on the TV and see that he’s throwing eight innings, striking out 10 and hitting two homers in a game. It’s pretty impressive. So excited for what he’s done so far. I’m looking forward to what else he does when we get out of town here.”


Prior to talking about Ohtani, Judge ran the bases for the first time since injuring his toe. Aaron Boone didn’t see the slugger do so, but he heard it went well.

Judge and Boone have said that some of the outfielder’s biggest remaining hurdles involve aspects of running, such as stopping, starting and cutting. Of course, hitting is a big factor too.

Boone said Judge, out since June 3, “will probably be in play” for hitting against Jonathan Loaisiga (bone spur) when the rehabbing reliever throws a live session sometime this weekend.

Boone reiterated Wednesday that Judge is getting “closer,” but the manager hasn’t offered any sort of concrete timeline for the captain’s return. Boone did, however, talk about Judge’s pain management and making sure he’s not pushing too hard.

“It’s got to be a low threshold of pain ultimately,” Boone said. “So it’s doing things that he can tolerate. So the fact that he’s able to run the bases and do these different things is important. But if it gets to be where it’s too painful, that’s when you get in that danger zone of hurting yourself more or whatever. So that’s the biggest thing: as long as he can continue to progress like he has with a low pain sensitivity to it, he should be in a good spot.”


Nestor Cortes (rotator cuff) is going to start his rehab assignment on Sunday now. Boone, who initially said the assignment would begin Saturday, expects the southpaw to need three minor league starts.


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