Former Yankees hitting coach Rick Down dies at 68

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Rick Down, who was the hitting coach for the New York Yankees and several other clubs, has passed away at the age of 68. He died at his home following a long illness.

Down served two stints as the Yankees hitting coach, from 1993-95 and then again from 2002-03. He held the same job with the Dodgers, Red Sox, Orioles and Mets over the years. He was likewise a good minor league manager, leading the Triple-A Columbus Clippers — then a Yankees affiliate — to three consecutive division titles from 1990-92 and a franchise-record 95 wins in 1992. He would, unfortunately, be bypassed for major league managerial jobs, though he did manage in Winter League ball many times and served as an advanced scout and hitting coordinator.

Down never made the big leagues as a player, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that he was an outfielder in the Montreal Expos system when that organization was just loaded with outfielders, including Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine, Warren Cromartie and Jerry White. He retired as a player in his late 20s before embarking on his long and successful coaching career.

Aaron Judge out of Yankees starting lineup for finale after No. 62

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge wasn’t in the starting lineup for New York’s regular-season finale, a day after his 62nd home run that broke Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League single-season record.

When Judge homered in the first inning Tuesday night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers, it was his 55th consecutive game. He has played in 157 games overall for the AL East champions.

With the first-round bye in the playoffs, the Yankees won’t open postseason play until the AL Division Series starts next Tuesday.

Even though Judge had indicated that he hoped to play Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone said after Tuesday night’s game that they would have a conversation and see what made the most sense.

“Short conversation,” Boone said before Wednesday’s game, adding that he was “pretty set on probably giving him the day today.”

Asked if there was a scenario in which Judge would pinch hit, Boone responded, “I hope not.”

Judge went into the final day of the regular season batting .311, trailing American League batting average leader Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315. Judge was a wide leader in the other Triple Crown categories, with his 62 homers and 131 RBIs.

Boone said that “probably the one temptation” to play Judge had been the long shot chance the slugger had to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.