Aaron Judge Scratched From Intrasquad With Neck Stiffness

Max Goodman

Just moments before the Yankees took the field for Saturday afternoon's intrasquad, New York announced Aaron Judge had been scratched from the lineup.

The team revealed the slugger was dealing with a "stiff neck," as utilityman Tyler Wade was penciled in to start in right field and hit second in his place. 

"I don't think it's that big a deal, it just locked up on him when he woke up," skipper Aaron Boone said following the intrasquad. "He slept on it a little weird. So he got worked on today and obviously didn't want to force anything today." 

Judge was visible throughout the game, watching his teammates get their work in from the Yankees' dugout. Boone doesn't foresee this stiffness keeping Judge out too long.

"Hopeful he can be in there tomorrow but we'll just see," he explained. "As long as that stiffness gets out of there, we gotta wait and see. I don't expect it to be a long term thing. "

Injury news when it comes to the 28-year-old always warrants some concern. The slugger played in just 102 games last year before missing all of Spring Training with a stress fracture in his first right rib and a pneumothorax. 

After months of uncertainty regarding Judge's condition, Judge said emphatically that he is "game ready" on Monday, revealing that his body has been feeling great for weeks ahead of baseball's return from the extended coronavirus hiatus. 

"I told you guys in Spring Training I was going to be ready for opening day," Judge said. "So, now I'm feeling good. The biggest thing now is just getting the reps in because I missed so many at-bats in the Spring Training we had. I didn't get all the reps in the outfield, reps on the bases, so for me right now it's just about getting my timing back."

READ: Masahiro Tanaka Plays Catch, Continues to Progress One Week After Line Drive Hits Head

Judge has participated in all of New York's workouts and practice games through the first full week of Summer Camp. On Thursday night, almost an hour after the final out of the Bombers' intrasquad, Judge was taking extra batting practice off a pitching machine, evidently continuing to work on his timing.

Amid unprecedented circumstances and a shortened season, minor injuries like stiffness and soreness could wind up more likely across the league. Boone said in Judge's case, he simply slept on it funny and that this could've happened at any point during a traditional season.

That said, Boone emphasized the importance of keeping a close eye on the entire roster and making sure everyone is staying in good shape.

"That's why you're kind of trying to strike that balance between understanding that we have a shorter amount of time and the urgency involved and also make sure we're as best we can building these guys up safely and putting them in situations that they're ready to handle," the manager explained. "By and large I think our guys are in good shape. Now, it's just building innings and getting them in that game shape." 

In 2020, however, keeping players on the field is even tougher. The Yankees also announced on Saturday that six-time All-Star Aroldis Chapman had tested positive for COVID-19. The Yankees' closer joins DJ LeMahieu and Luis Cessa as those within the organization to receive positive diagnoses. 

Judge added on Monday that he understands what he and his teammates are getting into by playing this season. That said, he never thought about opting out of the season. 

"Yeah, there's obviously a risk. If anything, walking outside there's a risk. Leaving your apartment there's a risk. There's risks everywhere," he said. "But I love this game and I love the team that we got here and the opportunity we have here you know it's 60 games and I just can't wait to get it started."

READ: Yankees Optimistic Aaron Judge Will Be Available on Opening Day

New York is scheduled to open the season with a prime-time matchup with the defending champion Washington Nationals on July 23.

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For more from Max Goodman, follow him on Twitter @MaxTGoodman. Follow ITP on Twitter @SI_Yankees and Facebook @SIYankees

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