A RULING ON JUDGE
Finally, Yanks get to see how much hiatus helped slugger
Now we get to see what the Yankees did on their unfortunate, threemonth coronavirus-imposed break. Players have posted their workout videos and comments on how they used the three months since spring training was suddenly shut down.
Most importantly for Yankees fans, it will be a chance to see if Aaron Judge is ready.
The Yankee slugger was held out of spring training with a shoulder injury that turned out to be a fractured rib suffered in September. The 28-year old, however, told Sports Illustrated last week that he’s been able to “hit a little bit.”
“This break has allowed some of the players, including myself, to get healthy,” Judge told SI. “Luckily, I’ve been able to go into our facility in Tampa Bay with five or six teammates to work out, get on the field and run around and hit a little bit. For us, it’s kind of been business as usual and has felt like an extended spring training.”
Judge wasn’t the only one who needed this time to get healthy. James Paxton, who had back surgery in February, Aaron Hicks, who had Tommy John surgery in October, and Giancarlo Stanton, who suffered a strained calf in spring training, were also able to heal during the shutdown. They are expected to be able to begin “Summer Camp,” (as the Yankees are calling it) on Friday ready to go.
Judge’s timeline, however, has been less clear.
He had been shut down from hitting before spring training had begun with what was described as a shoulder injury. It took weeks into spring training and dozens of tests to find the broken rib on his right side. The recommendation at that time was to rest, see if the bone healed and try to avoid surgery. Two weeks later, Judge revealed he had also been dealing with a partially collapsed lung. As of May 22, he was still not hitting, according to hitting coach Marcus Thames in an interview with YES’ Meredith Marakovits.
Judge was one of the several players who remained in Tampa after MLB shut down spring training. He was able to use the facilities at George M. Steinbrenner Field to rehab and workout for the past three months.
He feels that will give him and the Yankees an advantage.
“I honestly can’t wait to get back out there,” Judge said. “It’s going to be an exciting year. … As a Yankee, we’ve been out there on the field every day staying in shape. I feel like other guys haven’t been as lucky to have access to a field or facility, which could post problems. But I think this three-week spring training we are about to have will allow guys to get into game shape soon.”
Five months ago, the Yankees came into the 2020 season as the favorites to win the AL. That is obviously in part because of the addition of Gerrit Cole, but also based on the expectations for Judge and the young core that won 103 games last season.
Judge was also coming into the season with a chip on his shoulder. He was angry about the revelations over the winter that the Astros, the team that had blocked the Bombers from the World Series in 2017 and 2019, were cheating. Judge said that disappointment stung and fired his workouts in the offseason.
He also had something personal that he needed to show. In his three previous bigleague seasons, he had never had two healthy or strong halves.
After hitting .329 with 30 homers in 84 games in the first half of 2017, Judge went to the All-Star Game and won the Home Run Derby, then immediately began to struggle. He was 1-for-21 in his first five games following the All-Star break and in his first 55 hit .185 with 11 homers and 84 strikeouts.
It was not until the next spring he admitted a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery.
In 2018, Judge lost most of the second half of the season to a broken wrist. After hitting 25 homers and driving in 60 runs in the first 93 games, he played in only 19 in the second half. In 2019, Judge missed 54 games after straining his oblique.
The next few weeks will answer plenty of questions on the progress of Aaron Judge. GETTY