TAMPA — Aaron Judge knows this could be his last Opening Day as a Yankee, with no long-term deal yet and free agency a possibility after this season.
“You think about it, but it comes down to: I’ve got games to win,’’ Judge said after the Yankees finished spring training with a 5-3 loss to the Tigers at Steinbrenner Field.
And he’s got at least one more thing to accomplish in The Bronx.
“It’s been a while since Yankee fans have held a championship in the city,’’ Judge said. “I’ve got a job to do: to go out there and win it for them.”
There’s still a chance Judge and the Yankees could come to terms on a long-term extension before Judge’s self-imposed Opening Day deadline. If that doesn’t happen, they’ll head to an arbitration hearing and pick up talks after the World Series — one that Judge expects to be playing in.
He declined to provide an update on the negotiations, saying only, “We’ll get there when we get there.”
For now, he’s embracing the expectation of the season ahead.
“I came up here,’’ Judge said of coming through the Yankees’ system. “I don’t know anything else except going out there and trying to win a championship. That’s always been my goal. That’s what you do when you wear pinstripes.”
Since 2009, however, that hasn’t happened.
And manager Aaron Boone, in the first year of a new deal signed in the offseason, isn’t running from the pressure the Yankees face once again as they look to end their title drought.
Asked if there was more pressure to win a title when playing in New York, Boone said, “Sure. But that’s the beauty of getting to play here, getting to work here [and] getting to play for this franchise. The expectations and the interest, not only in the city of New York, but across the world, is different. That’s a privilege.”
The spotlight intensifies soon after the Yankees completed a shortened spring training on Tuesday.
On Thursday, they are scheduled to open the regular season against the Red Sox in The Bronx — weather permitting — and will begin to find out how good they are.
“That’s something we talk about all the time,” Boone said of the expectations. “It’s something to be embraced and it sure as heck beats the alternative. We understand the expectations. We share the same expectations, and no one wants to kick that baby down more than me.”
They’ve remade a significant portion of the lineup — with Gleyber Torres back at second base, Anthony Rizzo at first, newly arrived Josh Donaldson at third and Isiah Kiner-Falefa at shortstop.
Kyle Higashioka, coming off a terrific spring, will team with another fresh face, Jose Trevino, behind the plate.
The outfield will look somewhat like it did last season, though Brett Garder’s return never materialized this spring.
Aaron Hicks, healthier and lighter than last year, will play alongside Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo — as well as Giancarlo Stanton on occasion.
Their pitching rotation is set with Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon and Nestor Cortes, and the bullpen has added some youth with Clarke Schmidt, Ron Marinaccio and JP Sears to go along with Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga at the back end.
Whether this is the year the Yankees regain their championship mettle won’t be decided by their Opening Day roster, as Boone knows.
“That’s 6 ¹/₂ months away,’’ Boone said of the playoffs. “We’re working hard to lay the foundation now and put ourselves in a position to make a run at it. That’s why a lot of us do this. The beauty of high-stakes competition is awesome.”
Judge called this group, “the most established team I’ve been on.”
“We’ve got a good team,’’ he said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have a lot of hardware in this room. Now it’s time to go out there and play the game.”