OAKLAND, Calif. — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge took his first swings off a tee since breaking his right wrist July 26, a significant early step in what he hopes is a return to the field for New York in a couple of weeks.
Judge, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, took 25 dry swings Monday in Oakland’s center-field cage before taking another 25 off the tee at what he called 100 percent effort. He said he felt good enough in recent days and without pain that the decision was made he would begin hitting again.
“Just moving in the right direction. Definitely a big step,” Judge said, sitting in the Oakland Coliseum dugout. “I’m kind of on track with what we kind of wanted to accomplish, so I’m excited about the progress we’re making so far. It feels good. So I’ve just got to keep moving forward, keep having good days and just keep kind of building off that. Hopefully ramp it up here in the next couple days and be back out there soon.”
The next step for Judge is expected to be some more cage swings off the tee, then hitting soft toss and batting practice before live BP as soon as this weekend.
With the minor league schedule complete, manager Aaron Boone said the Yankees will “get creative” in how to get Judge the at-bats he needs — perhaps with a combination of simulated games and some work at the club’s Tampa, Florida, complex. Boone was encouraged by Judge experiencing no discomfort and planned to discuss different scenarios with general manager Brian Cashman.
“We definitely feel like he’s starting to build some momentum. For him to get to swing and hit off the tee and it go really well is obviously a great sign,” Boone said before the afternoon opener of a three-game series against the Athletics. “I know he’s pleased with it and just starting to build momentum toward getting back, so today was a very good day of progress.”
Boone doesn’t want to guess when Judge might be back in the Yankees’ lineup, saying it all will be based on how the right fielder responds after each step. And when Judge is ready, he will likely be back in right field as well as taking some games in the designated hitter spot.
Judge was batting .285 with 26 homers, 20 doubles and 61 RBIs in 99 games before the injury, which happened when he was hit by a fastball from Kansas City’s Jakob Junis.
“He’s excited about where he’s at,” Boone said. “Once we get through this weekend, if he continues to graduate then we start thinking about a possible timeline about maybe getting back. ... I envision him once he’s able to be back that he’s a full-bore Aaron Judge player.”
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, sidelined with a bruised left heel he hurt Aug. 19 in a collision with Toronto’s Kendrys Morales beating out an infield single, is set to run the bases Tuesday and Boone said he is “very close to a return.”