Aaron Judge on Mookie Betts’ move to shortstop: ‘selfless’

TAMPA — Much has been made of Aaron Judge’s willingness to move to center field this spring, as well as in the past, to give the Yankees more flexibility in the outfield. 

But that doesn’t quite compare to the move that another former American League MVP is making in Los Angeles, where Mookie Betts has become the Dodgers’ new starting shortstop.

“It’s remarkable,’’ Judge said Saturday of Betts’ decision, which was made after the previous starter, Gavin Lux, was struggling at the position.

Aaron Judge will be moving to center field for the Yankees.AP

“He’s got five or six Gold Gloves in the outfield, which is impressive and usually you keep those guys in that position when they are that good,’’ Judge said before working out at Steinbrenner Field. “The selflessness of him to go out there and try to help the team by moving to the infield and then not just that, but now moving to shortstop, speaks volumes to what kind of athlete he is and what kind of teammate he is.”

Like Judge, the 31-year-old Betts is in the prime of his career and playing for a team with sky-high expectations.

In addition to the AL MVP Betts won in 2018 with the Red Sox, he also finished second in the AL MVP once, as well as twice in the NL MVP voting as a Dodger — including last season.

Betts came up primarily as a second baseman before moving to the outfield with Boston.

“I’ve seen him play the infield and he’s got great skills, he’s got great hands, he has great movement,’’ Judge said. “I know he came up as a second baseman with the Red Sox, but they said ‘We’ve got this guy Dustin Pedroia, so you’d better learn a new position.’ So I’m excited to see what he does.”

And Judge understands the scrutiny Betts will face.

“It’s always tough when your team is in the position to fight for a World Series and you have a great team that signed two more great players [Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto], but I think it’s gonna help them and open up spots in the outfield. It makes them so diverse.”

The Yankees are hoping for similar results from Judge being in center again, which will allow newcomers Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo to be in the corner outfield spots.

Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts.AP

“That conversation [about moving to center] started in ’21 and if that helps free us up and keep guys in the lineup, then I’ll play wherever they need me,’’ Judge said.

That’s something Judge believes he has in common with Betts.

“It just comes down to being a ballplayer,’’ Judge said. “Mookie’s not just an outfielder. He’s a ballplayer. He’ll go out there and do whatever job you need him to do. I try to do the same thing to put us in the best position to win a game, if it’s right, center or left.”

Unlike Betts, though, Judge draws the line at filling in at shortstop if Anthony Volpe needs a break.

“I guess I could play a little short, but I don’t have the speed, hands or quickness, so that might not be a good idea,’’ Judge said with a laugh.

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