Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman delivered some discouraging news on Tuesday morning regarding the status of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
With Judge's right shoulder soreness continuing to develop over the last few weeks, and Stanton's recent right calf strain, the two sluggers are now considered unlikely to appear in New York's starting lineup on Opening Day.
Despite steady optimism from the club's skipper Aaron Boone, Cashman reported that although Judge has responded well to multiple tests – including those administered in the last 48 hours – there's still no timetable for his return to baseball activity.
The Yankees take on the Orioles in Baltimore to open the regular season on March 26 – just over three weeks away. Cashman referenced time as the main culprit for why Judge won't be suiting up with his teammates. The fact that there's still no clear diagnosis for what is ailing the star outfielder continues to push his recovery process back.
“As of right now, more likely than not, I don't see him ready by Opening Day because of the time frame,” Cashman told reporters before a game against the Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday. “It’s 3 1/2 weeks, and just then the healing and then having to have a Spring Training.”
Judge had been experiencing a slight discomfort in his right shoulder, but was progressing well as the Yankees began playing exhibition games. Each day, the slugger had increased his throwing program – reaching 120 feet of throwing in the last few days – as well as the amount of batting practice he had been taking in the cages. That progress came to a screeching halt as the pain appeared in his right pectoral area while Judge was taking swings. He's been shut down ever since.
“We’re running him through a whole battery of things just to eliminate everything and anything,” Cashman said, explaining Judge has two more tests scheduled on Tuesday in the Tampa area. “Hopefully they all come back negative. In the meantime, he's really responding well to the treatment protocols our performance science team has been running him through.”
As for Stanton, who was healthy before suffering a Grade 1 right calf strain during fielding drills on February 25, his future is similarly uncertain. Cashman was hesitant to predict Stanton will be healthy enough to play in the season's opener, saying he'd rather be "safe than sorry."
“My gut would be that he wouldn't be ready by Opening Day. Doesn't mean I'm right,” Cashman said. “I would say it's better to assume he won't be ready. Will he be, in theory, ready in April? At some point the answer should be yes. But Opening Day in late March, I'd say more likely than not.”
The mentality that Stanton (and Judge) will be ready sometime in April is in line with Boone's comments on Sunday. The Bombers' manager had tried his best to stay positive about the sluggers' status.
“I'm very optimistic on both Aaron and Giancarlo not being long-term things,” Boone said to reporters this past weekend. “I feel good about the prognosis of things, even though in the immediate [situation], because of what has happened and what went on last year, the flames get a little fanned.”
Moving forward – similar to the Yankees' pitching situation, as they prepare to start the season without starters Luis Severino and James Paxton – Cashman explained the club is looking internally. When asked who will appear in his ideal outfield come Day 1 of the regular season, Cashman assured that several players are "capable" of filling in.
"We'll take the best from the available players here competing obviously. Hopefully we stay healthy in other categories as well, but we certainly have a number of different people that are more than capable. Hopefully we have all those choices in play by the time we're putting lineups together."
With Judge and Stanton projected to be out of the Yanks' opening day lineup, that opens the door for Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman and Miguel Andújar – who has impressed in left field this spring – to take advantage of the opportunity. Two of those names will in all likelihood be the outfielders flanking Brett Gardner as the Bombers take the field on Opening Day.
Utilityman Rosell Herrera is another name that's come up this spring as a potential sleeper to make the club, although he currently does not have a spot on the Yankees' 40-man roster. As Spring Training invitees begin to get cut at Yankees' camp, and should Judge or Stanton be forced to spend time on the injured list, that could change.
After setting a Major League record with 30 players spending time on the injured list in 2019, and already multiple key pieces down this early in the spring, Cashman put a long season into perspective. Injuries are part of the game and he'd rather have ailments plague the roster at this point of the year so long as the Yankees can stay healthy down the stretch.
“Part of a season is the constant ebbs and flows of dealing with injuries,” Cashman said. “Right now, none of the games count while we're missing important players, so I'd rather be dealing with it right now than having it bleed deep in or cause significant time in-season. Hopefully in the case of Stanton and Judge, you're dealing with limited time rather than maximum time like with Severino.”
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