Yankees rush a not-fully-fit Aaron Judge only to hit limitations

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees is playing against the Orioles at Camden Yards on July 28, 2023.

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BALTIMORE — Aaron Judge has openly acknowledged that he has not fully recovered to 100 percent. His comeback in the game against the Orioles clearly showed that on Friday. The slugger failed to click and the Yankees were shut down by a rookie in Baltimore.

After a lengthy absence spanning from June 3, Aaron Judge finally returned to the Yankees’ lineup, taking on the role of designated hitter and batting second. This much-anticipated comeback occurred on Friday night as he was activated from the injured list, coinciding with a crucial series against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

However, Aaron Judge struggled at the plate, going 0-for-1 though he displayed an impressive eye for the strike zone, drawing three walks. Also, the rest of the Yankees’ lineup couldn’t find their rhythm, mustering only four singles throughout the night. Despite a stellar performance by Gerrit Cole on the mound, the team couldn’t capitalize on their pitcher’s excellence, leading to a 1-0 shutout loss.

Aaron Judge’s partially fit return falls short

Despite not being completely recovered, having Aaron Judge back on the field, even with some limitations, the Yankees thought to have a significant advantage. Once medical experts and Aaron Judge himself determined that the healing process of his torn ligament had progressed enough to avoid further complications, he was given the green light to resume playing.

“It was finalized today about 2 o’clock with the final thing being Aaron wanted everyone to weigh in on his most recent test results and get their expert opinions and feedback on it,” Boone said. “We took all that into consideration. Mike Schuck, Aaron and I decided to give it a go.

Aaron Judge expressed his biggest concern about returning too early and potentially exacerbating the injury, not wanting to risk further complications that could extend into future seasons. Before the game, he mentioned that after discussions with several doctors, they concluded that the ligament had become stable. While the previous MRIs didn’t show significant healing progress, a recent one conducted earlier in the week provided more positive results, leaving Judge feeling confident about his current condition.

The Yankees are confident that as long as Aaron Judge avoids encountering similar concrete ledges, such as the one at Dodger Stadium where the initial injury occurred, playing with the toe issue won’t significantly worsen it.

Aaron Judge assumed the second spot in the batting order, asserting his presence with poise and skill. In the first inning, he made a powerful lineout to right field, setting the tone for the rest of his performance. As the game progressed, Judge’s presence at the plate demanded respect, as he confidently drew two walks. His fourth-inning free pass was particularly significant, breaking up Grayson Rodriguez’s impressive streak of 3 1/3 perfect innings. However, his return failed to have an immediate impact on the team’s offensive dynamics.

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Yankees cautious on Aaron Judge

Manager Aaron Boone expressed that whenever a player takes the field, there were inherent risks as unforeseen incidents can happen. However, he believed that the likelihood of worsening the toe injury was more dependent on another traumatic incident rather than regular wear and tear.

Since Aaron Judge did not undergo a rehab assignment, the Yankees will be careful in gradually increasing his workload. They plan to alternate his starts between the designated hitter (DH) position and right field, ensuring a cautious approach to his return.

During this series, Aaron Judge might not participate in all three games, and the Yankees will grant him some off days amidst their demanding schedule of 13 games in 13 days. This stretch includes matchups against the Orioles, Rays, and Astros—three teams currently ahead of the Yankees in the playoff race.

Boone expressed that they must be prudent about the situation despite the urgency they face. However, Aaron Judge asserted that the two simulated games he participated in on Tuesday and Wednesday in Tampa provided sufficient evidence that he was prepared to rejoin the Yankees.

The Yankees slugger cited his experience in rehab assignments where he didn’t get any good pitches to hit or any fly balls throughout the game. However, in the current situation with the simulated games, they were able to manage the conditions better and put more stress on him to evaluate his readiness.


During the captain’s absence, the Yankees recorded a 19-23 record, which caused them to slip out of the playoff position. However, as of Friday, they were still within 2 ½ games of securing the final AL wild-card spot.

Following Aaron Judge’s last game, the Yankees’ offense experienced a significant decline in performance. Starting from June 4 until Thursday, the Yankees’ offensive rankings were far from impressive, placing 27th in OPS (.670), 25th in slugging percentage (.374), 27th in on-base percentage, 30th in batting average (.220), and 27th in runs per game (3.88).

Despite wearing a protective covering on his right foot while batting, the 6-foot-7, 282-pound slugger will have to manage the pain in his toe to ensure it doesn’t affect his performance at the plate. Aaron Judge has already mentioned that he doesn’t expect his toe to be fully healed until the end of the year. However, the primary objective was to reach a point where he can play and endure the discomfort.

Boone expressed his desire for Aaron Judge’s return to provide a boost to the team, but it ended in a disappointment on Friday.

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