NEW YORK — All-Star outfielder Aaron Judge is one of the many Yankees that have benefited from this 3½ months hiatus, declaring himself “game ready” after the first instrasquad game at Yankee Stadium on Monday night.
Major League Baseball’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for the Yankees, particularly for Judge, who was greatly limited in the spring due to a stress fracture to his first right rib, and a subsequent punctured lung. Judge has attributed the injury to an attempted diving catch in right field Sept. 18 against the Angels in the Bronx.
“I’m game-ready. Like I told you guys in spring training, I was going to be ready for Opening Day,” said Judge, with a smile, at the end of an intrasquad scrimmage, where he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout hitting second in a lineup that played against the “Bombers,” a squad mostly composed of Yankees bench players and minor leaguers. “I’m feeling good. The biggest thing now is just getting the reps in because I missed so many at-bats in spring training. I didn’t get all the reps in the outfield, reps on the bases. Right now, it’s just about getting my timing back in the game and just getting my game reps in and go out there for 60 games.”
Judge, 28, added: “It feels good to be back on the field. I kept inching, trying to push them on the regimen a little bit on what we could do because my body was feeling great. I know we had a limited time to get ready for the season because we never knew when it was going to start.”
In terms of the increasing number of players to have opted out this season, Judge said there was “never a doubt in my mind” when it came to playing this abbreviated season.
“There’s obviously a risk, of anything,” he said. “Just walking outside there’s a risk, leaving your apartment there’s a risk. There’s risk everywhere, but I love this game and I love the team that we’ve got here and the opportunity we have here.”
Judge also addressed the comprehensive protocols contained in the “2020 Operations Manual,” an extensive document detailing rules and regulations that intend to protect the health and safety of players and team employees.
“That’s what we talked about as a team and with each other, hammering being accountable for each other,” Judge said. “Watching out for each other. Making sure you’re washing your hands, making sure you wear your mask, making sure you’re doing the things so that everybody stays healthy and stays on the field.”
The Yankees were expected to open up the season in Baltimore in March, with many important players on the shelf, this after placing a major league record-setting 30 players on the injured list 39 times last season. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the team will have a chance to get most of their injured players back for their rescheduled Opening Day, July 23, at the defending World Series champions, Washington Nationals.
Giancarlo Stanton, who strained his right calf in the spring after playing only in 18 games last season due to mostly lower body injuries, also benefited from the time off, and the Yankees hope he’ll fulfill the designated hitter role on Opening Day.
“It’s been pretty recent, (my calf) feeling 100 percent,” said Stanton, who hopes to eventually play the outfield. “We’re going to go through camp, make sure that the schedule lines up to be ready to DH and go from there. With the season being so short, this is really a one-stop shop of getting it right. I think we have a good schedule down and a good formula to get it right.”
The Yankees will hold another intrasquad scrimmage on Tuesday night, with their $324 million dollar starter, Gerrit Cole, who is scheduled to throw four innings.