Yankees 'Optimistic' Aaron Judge Will be Ready For Opening Day

Max Goodman

Back in March, just days before he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib, Aaron Judge said his goal was to be available on Opening Day.

This certainly isn't how Judge and the Yankees drew it up, but the slugger's aspirations may end up coming true nearly four months later.

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the organization is "optimistic" that it will have its starting right fielder in the lineup when the season begins next month. 

"We're very optimistic as of right now that maybe his proclamation that he would be ready for Opening Day and in the lineup will ring true," Cashman explained, in his first public comments since it was announced Major League Baseball would return in July.

Judge has been sidelined since position players reported to Spring Training in February, nursing a cracked right rib – an injury believed to be sustained last fall. The 28-year-old didn't make a single appearance in Grapefruit League play.

Now, Cashman is confident that MLB's extended hiatus, mixed with the next three weeks of workouts in baseball's second installment of Spring Training, gives Judge a good chance to be available. 

"He's potentially doing all physical activity so now it comes down to game reps, facing live pitching and seeing if he's in game shape which is true for a lot of these players," Cashman explained, alluding to the health of outfielders Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton who are also approaching their return to action. "I think there is optimism that if everything works out for the next three weeks, that he actually has a shot to be plug and play ready to go."

Just days ago, Judge revealed in an exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated that he's been able to "hit a little bit," a massive step forward to go along with his increase in running, fielding and working out.

While Cashman's optimism is warranted, he understood there's no guarantee Judge will be available. All teams will need to keep a close eye on ballplayers progressing back from injury as clubs convene this week for the first time since mid-March.

READ: Five Biggest Takeaways From the Yankees' Player Pool for Summer Camp

"All of our players know the demands of a Major League schedule so we've got to obviously [keep tabs on] their physical condition and how they respond to game reps," he said. "But [Judge has] checked all the boxes thus far and we're optimistic that it is possible that he will be ready to go by Opening Day."

The Yankees are expected to report to Yankee Stadium for the commencement of 'Summer Camp' on Wednesday. Cashman revealed, however, he does not anticipate New York's entire player pool roster to arrive on time, citing travel restrictions across the country and around the world as a justifiable reason for delays. 

Cashman confirmed New York's first workout at Yankee Stadium will be on Friday, at the earliest. 

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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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